New Discoveries on Mars!
Earlier this year, we talked about how the Mars Perseverance rover was searching the Jezero crater for microscopic fossils. Proof of living or even extinct organisms on the red planet has remained elusive, but this might have just changed.
NASA’s Perseverance rover, launched in 2020 in part to search for Martian life, has collected two rock samples that harbor carbon-based molecules which may indicate the area once supported living organisms. The rocks are several billion years old, dating back to when the area was a lake, conditions that support the hypothesis that the carbon biosignatures may be the product of now extinct life.
Rocks like these ones are exactly what the Perseverance rover was looking for, sedimentary material that appears to have formed near ancient river deltas. These rocks also contained complex chemicals that are typically associated with organic life here on Earth.
That being said, it must be cautioned that there have been many false alarms in the search for organisms on Mars, and the burden of proof for extraterrestrial life is very high. It's not out of the question that the processes that created these stones were completely inorganic and while scientists are excited, they aren't certain this is the proof they're looking for.
The samples were intriguing enough to garner interest for a recovery mission, the first of its kind. NASA and the European Space Agency are currently teaming up to design plans for mission that could bring them back to Earth in 2033.
Until such samples are examined back on Earth, it remains impossible to say. Still, there are plenty of reasons to be hopeful that this is the mission that finally confirms the existence of life on our nearest celestial neighbor. A handful of biosignatures in a bit of rock may not be the climatic discovery of alien life we’ve always expected, but it would of course still be a watershed moment in our exploration of the solar system.
Martian geology is still mysterious to scientists today, since the only pieces of the planet we can investigate on Earth come from meteorites like Zagami which contain pieces of Mars' atmosphere. Want to learn more about Martian meteorites and even get a piece of the incredible Zagami meteorite for your collection? Check out the specimen in the shop!