RESEARCH: The Floor Of Jezero Crater On Mars Shows Signs Of Water Interactions

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Newswise – Portland, Ore. USA: Since Perseverance’s landing in Jezero Crater on Mars in February 2017, the Perseverance rover and its team have been exploring the floor of the crater, which once housed an ancient lake. Perseverance and Mars are searching for signs of ancient Mars life and have prepared a cache of samples to be returned for further analysis on Earth.

Katie Stack Morgan is the Mars 2020 Deputy Project Scientist and a research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), and will be providing an update on early results on the Mars 2020 rover mission on Sunday, 10 Oct., at the Geological Society of America’s Connects 2021 annual meeting in Portland, Oregon. The scientific team has been studying the rocks on the crater floor using Perseverance’s high tech suite of instruments. They have concluded that they are igneous rocks and could be a volcanic flow.

” The idea that this could have been a volcanic rock appealed to us from a sample-return perspective, as igneous rocks can be used to accurately date age. Stack Morgan stated that Jezero was an ancient crater lake site on Mars that had both amazing sedimentary deposits and volcanic deposits. This could have helped us to construct the geologic timeline of Mars.

The lake system and rivers that flowed into Jezero crater are likely to have been active between 3.8-3.6 Billion years ago. However, the first time we can date the rocks in Earth’s laboratories will give us a definitive view of when Mars might have been habitable. The team discovered that the crater floor is composed of coarser-grained, igneous minerals. There are also many salts within the rocks. The rocks have been exposed to water for significant periods of time, which could explain why they are weathered and altered.

After analyzing the characteristics of the crater floor with its onboard tools, Perseverance was able to take a rock sample using the drill feature. Perseverance’s first attempt at drilling failed and the core sample tube was returned empty.

” We spent several days looking at the rover, thinking the core might have fallen from the bit. We then looked down at the drill hole and thought it might not have made it out. All of these searches were unsuccessful. Stack Morgan said that we came to the conclusion that the core had been pulverized during drilling.

The rock was likely to have been so altered and weakened by water interactions that the Perseverance drill’s vibrations and strength pulverized it.

Scientists then targeted another rock that appeared more resistant to weathering, and Perseverance was able to successfully collect two core samples–the first in its sample collection. Perseverance’s cache will be part a multi-spacecraft handoff that is still in development. It will hopefully be returned back to Earth in early 2030s. Scientists in Earth laboratories will then date and analyze the rocks in order to determine if they might contain evidence of ancient Martian life.

” Although the primary astrobiology target for the mission was not initially planned, the rocks on the crater floor are always surprising us. Stack Morgan said that they were excited to discover that these rocks had been in constant contact with water, and may have been habitable for ancient martian microbes.

Session 14: T117. Perseverance at Jezero Crater–Characterizing an Ancient Crater Lake Basin on Mars
Paper 14-1: Early results from the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover in Jezero Crater, Mars
https://gsa.confex.com/gsa/2021AM/meetingapp.cgi/Paper/367543
Sunday, 10 Oct., 8-8: 15 a.m., Oregon Convention Center, Portland Ballroom 256 (Hybrid Room)

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The Geological Society of America, founded in 1888, is a scientific society with members from academia, government, and industry in more than 100 countries. GSA promotes geosciences for humanity through its publications and meetings. GSA is based in Boulder, Colorado USA. It encourages collaboration among earth, life and planetary scientists and fosters public dialog on geoscience issues.

https://www.geosociety.org

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