New Perspective of Jezero Crater Shows the Path Perseverance Could use to Navigate

On February 18th, 2021, NASA’s Perseverance rover set down on the surface of Mars. During the next two years of its primary mission, the rover will search the Jezero crater (where it landed) for evidence of past life on Mars. This will consist of collecting soil and rock samples from the preserved delta feature that formed billions of years ago from sediments deposited by flowing water.

The question is, where should it look for this possible evidence? A possible route the rover will take during its primary mission is shown in a series of recent images provided by NASA and the US Geological Survey (USGS). As illustrated in the image below, this path would take it from the cliffs that form the edge of the delta, up and across its surface towards possible “shoreline” deposits, and up to the rim of the crater.

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What Happens if Perseverance Finds Life on Mars?

It all happened so fast! On Thursday, February 18th, NASA’s Perseverance rover set landed in the Jezero crater on Mars and almost immediately transmitted its first image of the Martian. This was followed by photos from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and footage taken by the rover’s Entry, Descent, and Landing (EDL). Then there was the panoramic video, a sound recording, and deployed its Ingenuity helicopter, all in the space of a week!

But that’s nothing compared to what happened next. Shortly after the rover started drilling into the floor of the Jezero crater, Perseverance found evidence of fossilized bacteria! The search for life on Mars finally struck paydirt! Okay, that didn’t happen… Not yet, anyway. But what if it does? After all, one of Perseverance‘s main objectives is to search for evidence of past life on Mars. What will be the impact if and when it finds it?

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Dust Particles in the Martian Atmosphere can Create Static Electricity, but not Enough to Endanger the Rovers

Lightning is one of the most powerful forces in nature.  Up to 1 billion volts of electricity can flow into a strike in less than a second.  Such a large energy buildup can be created by even a relatively simple cause – two particles rubbing together.  A team at the University of Oregon has now studied whether those simple interactions might cause lightning on a place it hasn’t been seen before – on Mars.

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What a Geologist Sees When They Look at Perseverance’s Landing Site

Geologists love fieldwork. They love getting their specialized hammers and chisels into seams in the rock, exposing unweathered surfaces and teasing out the rock’s secrets. Mars would be the ultimate field trip for many of them, but sadly, that’s not possible.

Instead, we’ve sent the Perseverance rover on the field trip. But if a geologist were along for the ride, what would it look like to them?

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There’s Evidence That Mars Once Had an Atmosphere With Less Oxygen. A Possible Biosignature For Life?

Remote sensing is only useful if scientists have an idea of what they are looking at.  That knowledge is especially important for remote sensing applications on other planets, such as Mars, where it is extraordinarily difficult to collect information about an observed object in any other way.  To make up for the lack of ability to perform other tests in situ, scientists set up laboratory experiments with different environments and materials and compare the remote sensing data with the observed remote objects. 

That is exactly what Jiacheng Liu, a doctoral student at the University of Hong Kong, did with remote sensing data from the surface of Mars.  What he found gave new weight to a novel theory – that Mars didn’t used to have a significant amount of oxygen in its atmosphere.  The fact that it does now prompts the question of where all the oxygen that exists in the atmosphere today came from.  One possible answer is the same place it came from on Earth – photosynthetic life.

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Perseverance has Landed. Here are its First Pictures From the Surface of Mars

They’ve done it again. After a journey of nearly seven months, the Perseverance rover teams successfully guided their intrepid traveler to a pinpoint landing inside Jezero Crater on Mars on February 18, 2021.

And within minutes of the landing, Perseverance sent back two images from the front and rear Hazard Avoidance Cameras, revealing its surroundings on the Red Planet.

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Water Shaped Features on Mars Much Earlier Than Previously Believed

In two days (on Thursday, Feb. 18th, 2021), NASA’s Perseverance rover will land on Mars. As the latest robotic mission in the Mars Exploration Program (MEP), Perseverance will follow in the footsteps of its sister mission, Curiosity. Just in time for its arrival, research conducted at the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) has shown that Mars’ surface was shaped by flowing water several million years earlier than previously thought.

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A Combined Map of Almost 15,000 Dust Storms on Mars

Data in the world of astronomy is spread out in so many different places.  There are archives for instruments on individual spacecraft and telescopes.  Sometimes all that is needed to get new insight out of old data is to collect it all together and analyze a whole set rather than isolated instances.  That is exactly what happened recently when a team from the Harvard Center for Astrophysics collected and analyzed data about almost 15,000 dust storms that have taken place on Mars over the last eight Martian years.

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