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Mars rover searches for evidence of past life at ancient river delta

By Doug Cunningham
1/5
Mars rover searches for evidence of past life at ancient river delta
This high-resolution still image is part of a video taken by several cameras as NASA's Perseverance rover touched down on Mars on February 18, 2021. The rover is starting a search for evidence of past Martian life at Jezero Crater's ancient Martian river delta. Image courtesy of NASA | License Photo

April 20 (UPI) -- NASA's Perseverance rover, searching for evidence of past life on Mars, has completed a 31-Martian-day journey of roughly 3 miles after collecting eight rock-core samples from its first science campaign.

As of April 13, the rover was "at the doorstep of Jezero Crater's ancient Martian river delta" searching for signs of microscopic life, according to NASA.

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"The delta at Jezero Crater promises to be a veritable geologic feast and one of the best locations on Mars to look for signs of past microscopic life," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. "The answers are out there -- and Team Perseverance is ready to find them."

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NASA said the river delta is a massive, fan-shaped collection of rocks and sediment formed at the convergence of a river and a crater lake billions of years ago.

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The rover is headed for a plateau atop the delta, where it will perform detailed science investigations.

NASA said astrobiology is a key objective for the Perseverance mission, including the search for any signs of ancient microbial life.

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The Delta Front campaign kicked off Monday and will take about half an Earth year to finish, according to NASA. The Delta Top campaign will follow, also expected to take about half an Earth year.

"The delta is why Perseverance was sent to Jezero Crater: It has so many interesting features," Perseverance project scientist Ken Farley said in press release. "We will look for signs of ancient life in the rocks at the base of the delta, rocks that we think were once mud on the bottom of 'Lake Jezero.'"

Dispatches from Mars: Perseverance rover sends images

NASA's Perseverance Mars rover, using its Mastcam-Z camera system, captured this view of the Martian sunset on November 9, 2021, the 257th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. Martian sunsets typically stand out for their distinctive blue color as fine dust in the atmosphere permits blue light to penetrate the atmosphere more efficiently than colors with longer wavelengths. But this sunset looks different: Less dust in the atmosphere resulted in a more muted color than average. The color has been calibrated and white-balanced to remove camera artifacts. Photo courtesy of NASA | License Photo

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