In DepthPlanetary Science

Perseverance will explore history of ancient lake

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Science  26 Feb 2021:
Vol. 371, Issue 6532, pp. 870-871
DOI: 10.1126/science.371.6532.870

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Summary

NASA's $2.7 billion Perseverance rover has made a precise landing on the floor of Mars's Jezero crater, which scientists believe was filled with water 3.8 billion years ago. Two kilometers away sits the rover's primary target: a fossilized river delta, created as muddy water spilled into the crater—ideal for preserving signs of life. But before Perseverance starts the long climb up into the delta, to drill samples that will eventually be returned to Earth, it will examine the rocks beneath its six wheels. The rover landed near outcrops of rock layers that may have originally been laid down before and after the lake and the delta. The NASA team will probe these rocks for their origin; if volcanic, the radiometric dates derived from them could provide clues to the nature and timing of the brief period when water flowed—and life might have flourished. First, the rover will continue its monthlong commissioning phase and then deploy its attached experimental helicopter, Ingenuity, for the first rotor-powered flight on another planet.

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