NASA announced today that its Perseverance rover has discovered definitive evidence that Mars’ Jezero crater once housed a lake, raising hopes that the rover may have already collected fossilized signs of ancient Martian life.
Using ground-penetrating radar, Perseverance mapped out sediment layers under the crater surface that likely originated from a river delta depositing into a large lake that later dried up. The findings, published in the journal Science Advances, confirm what scientists had long suspected about Jezero crater but could not definitively prove before now.
The revelation boosts the chances that within the dozens of geological samples the rover has already collected during its mission could be preserved organic compounds or even microscopic fossils that will offer clues about potential ancient lifeforms on Mars billions of years ago.
Those samples will be returned to Earth by a future European Space Agency mission currently slated for 2033, where scientists will thoroughly analyze them for any biosignatures of past life. While evidence of life on Mars remains elusive so far, the new discovery from Perseverance offers renewed hope that the secrets locked inside Mars’ rocks may finally provide some answers.
The discovery comes shortly after NASA bid farewell to Perseverance’s loyal sidekick, the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter, which wrapped up its history-making flight campaign earlier this month after nearly two years of operations. Meanwhile, Perseverance continues its central science mission of probing Jezero crater for more clues about Mars’ watery past.