NASA’s Perseverance mars rover successfully captured its first pair of rock samples last week. The samples, named “Montdenier” and “Montagnac,” may contain trapped tiny bubbles of ancient martian water, NASA scientists say. The rock is believed to be of volcanic origin.
Scientists believe that the samples will offer a window into the history and geology of the red planet and help put together a timeline of Mars’ past that includes volcanic activity and periods of lasting water.
The rock, from which Perseverance took the pair of samples, appears to have salts within it, which indicates that the rock formed when groundwater flowed. When the water evaporated, it left the salt molecules trapped in the rock.
“It looks like our first rocks reveal a potentially habitable sustained environment,” says Ken Farley, project scientist of the NASA Mars mission, in a statement. According to Farley, the presence of water for a long time on the red planet is a big deal.
By analysing the data sent back by the rover, scientists believe that the rock cored by the mars rover could be a product of the lava flow on the planet. These rock samples, when subjected to radiometric dating, could reveal the potentially volcanic origin of the rock.
According to scientists, each sample can serve as a part of a big chronological puzzle that will reveal the secrets buried in the red planet’s past.
Scientists have known for some time that Mars used to be full of water. What is now Jezero crater, was once an ancient lake. That is why the rover is collecting the rock samples in the Jezero crater, as scientists believe that if signs of ancient life can be found anywhere on Mars, it must be in the Jezero crater. However, scientists did not have an idea about how long the groundwater on Mars lasted. But the level of alteration the rock appears to have gone through hints that the water lasted for a really long time.