September 23, 2023
Rocas y mar en GueirĂșa - Rocks and sea at 'Playa de la GueirĂșa'

NASA’s Perseverance Rover Uncovers Abundance of Organic Molecules in Mars Rocks, Signaling Potential Past Habitability

NASA’s Perseverance rover has made significant findings, suggesting the presence of organic molecules in substantial quantities and diverse forms within rocks at a site on Mars where a lake existed in the distant past. This groundbreaking evidence was gathered using the Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman and Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals (SHERLOC) instrument, which is mounted on the rover’s robotic arm. SHERLOC enables the analysis of organic molecules and detailed mapping of the Martian terrain.

Researchers have reported these findings from ten different locations across two geological formations on the floor of the Jezero crater. The evidence collected points towards the existence of organic molecules in multiple rock samples, some of which are likely to be returned to Earth for further analysis in the future. However, the discovery of these organic molecules does not confirm the presence of past or present life on Mars, as non-biological processes could also explain their existence.

Astrobiologist Sunanda Sharma of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, the lead author of the research published in the journal Nature, explained, “Organics are the molecular building blocks of life as we know it, but can also be formed from geological processes not directly related to life. We see multiple signals that appear to vary across the formations of the crater floor and in the minerals they are associated with.”

Perseverance successfully landed on the Martian surface within the Jezero Crater in February 2021 with the mission of seeking evidence of ancient life on Mars and collecting soil and rock samples for potential return to Earth. The Jezero Crater, located in the planet’s northern hemisphere, was once submerged in water and housed an ancient lake basin.

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These findings open up new possibilities for understanding Mars’ past habitability and the potential for ancient life on the planet. NASA’s Perseverance rover continues to explore and conduct further investigations to unravel the mysteries of the Red Planet, paving the way for future human missions and advancements in our understanding of the universe.