First Mars Rocks Reveal Planet Was Once Potentially Habitable

As the possibility of humans stepping on Mars draws nearer, NASA's rovers keep broadcasting new, enticing details of the Red Planet. For the latest discovery of the rover, the space agency presents the first rocks from Mars that the Perseverance rover ever collected. Scientists say the alien stones hint at a story of a potentially habitable world.
A rich, colorful view of the rust-colored surface of Mars and the rocks of Mars.
NASA / JPL-Caltech
Engadget covered the announcement, which is believed to be Perseverance's latest breakthrough. The rover has already reflected the very first audio recordings on the planet. The rover also dropped off a miniature helicopter that can fly in the ultra-thin atmosphere of Mars.
Project scientists say that Perseverance's very first rock sample from Mars has a basaltic composition. It can be the product of lava flows. This means that the rocks may have been created by the rapid cooling of thin liquid lava. A long-extinct volcano could be the culprit. More important for the possibility of a formerly habitable world, however, is the presence of salt minerals in the rocks; Signs that groundwater might once have flowed through them. Or maybe collected over it and then evaporated, leaving the salt behind.
A rich, colorful view of the rust-colored surface of Mars.
NASA / JPL-Caltech
It's hard for scientists to say, but their best guess as to the origin of the water seems to be a long-lost lake. NASA has suspected for some time that Jezero Crater - the 750 mile wide crater where Perseverance landed - was once home to a lake. Although scientists weren't sure if the lake survived 50 years or a million. However, this new evidence points to a long-standing body of water.
"It looks like [Perseverances] first rocks reveal a potentially habitable sustainable environment," said project scientist Ken Farley on a NASA blog post. "It's a big deal that the water was there for a long time."
A stitched panoramic view of Mars' Jezero crater. A closer look at the rocks of Mars.
NASA / JPL-Caltech
In fact, NASA says scientists are now "more certain" that Jezero Crater may have been home to a lake - or flowing groundwater - long enough for microscopic life to bloom. Another tempting treat that makes Mars seem ripe for exploration. Because seeing a bit of Martian rock in one of Perseverance's sample tubes (above) is cool, and anything but really touching regolith would really "whet" mankind's appetite for space exploration.
First Mars Rocks Reveal Planet War Once Potentially Habitable post first appeared on Nerdist.

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