Perseverance rover reaches best possible site to find life on Mars; read what lies ahead
The Perseverance rover has spent over a year on Mars since it landed on the red planet’s Jezero crater on February 18, 2021. In a recent mission update, NASA’s team handling the rover revealed that Perseverance is parked at a site called Enchanted Lake which is the best possible location to find signs of ancient life. Notably, the Martian samples collected by the rover will be bound for Earth in a few years but Perseverance only has a limited number of tubes; and so the rover needs to be “picky” in choosing its sampling site.
NASA explains how scientists pick their location
In order to determine which sites to pick, scientists keep in the mind the kind of rocks that are of the highest priority- those that make up the well-preserved delta located on the western side of Jezero crater. For the unversed, the location being a delta filled with water was one of the attributes that made the Jezero crater so appealing to scientists. NASA says that a close examination of deltaic rocks is critical for interpreting their depositional environment and determining if the region was ever habitable.
As for Perseverance’s next sampling, NASA said that it is a “tough decision” selecting the next excavation site since the rover has a limited space left. “The rover can only collect a finite number of samples so the team has to carefully weigh all options, keeping in mind what has already been sampled and also trying to anticipate what we might encounter along the rest of the traverse”, the mission team said in a report.
The location where the rover is currently parked- the Enchanted Lake- the scientists decided not to conduct sampling at this location as the rocks there did not fit the desired criteria for sampling. The team said that the data collected at Enchanted Lake will be used instead to build context for future investigations of the delta. Although the site was not as productive as thought, Perseverance is now heading to a new and promising location called the Hawksbill Gap. “Perseverance will continue to collect data to help characterize the contact between the crater floor and deltaic rocks before ascending onto the delta itself”, the mission team said.