This Mess of Boulders Was Deposited by an Ancient River on Mars

The Mastcam-Z imager on NASA's Perseverance rover captured a series of images on July 6 that were stitched together to show a field of boulders deposited in Jezero Crater by a fast-moving ancient river. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS

Since the Viking 1 and 2 missions visited Mars in 1976, scientists have been confronted with mounting evidence that Mars once had flowing water on its surface. The images collected by the twin Viking landers and orbiters showed clear signs of ancient flow channels, alluvial deposits, and weathered rocks. Thanks to the dozens of additional orbiters, landers, and rovers sent that have been sent there since scientists have been getting a clearer picture of what Mars once looked like. At the end of this journey, they hope to find evidence (if there’s any to be found) that Mars once supported life and still does today.

The latest evidence of Mars’ warmer watery past comes to us courtesy of NASA’s Perseverance rover, which continues to explore the Jezero Crater and obtain samples for the first Mars sample-return mission. On Friday, June 23rd, the rover obtained its 20th sample, which was drilled from a rocky outcropping known as “Emerald Lake.” Named “Otis Peak,” this sample is part of an outcropping formed by mineral deposits transported by an ancient river and could contain invaluable geological information about the many places these minerals came from.

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Mmm. Perseverance Finds a Doughnut-Shaped Rock on Mars.

NASA's Perseverance rover spotted a donut-shaped rock on Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The pareidolia crowd is sure to have a field day with this! Once again, an oddly-shaped rock has been spotted on Mars. Once again, the rock is donut-shaped. This particular rock was spotted by NASA’s Perseverance rover, which continues to explore the Jezero Crater in Mars’ northern hemisphere. The image was taken by the Remote Microscopic Imager (RMI), part of the SuperCam instrument, at a distance of about 100 meters (328 feet) from the rover, on June 22nd, 2023 – the 832nd Martian day (or sol) of the mission.

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NASA and LEGO Continue Brick-Solid Partnership with Perseverance and Ingenuity LEGO Models

NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover used the WATSON camera on its robotic arm to capture a selfie with the Ingenuity helicopter on April 6, 2021 from an approximate distance of 3.9 meters (13 feet) from the rover. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems)

Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (NASA-JPL) are busy keeping the Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter functioning in Jezero Crater on Mars while these robotic explorers continue the search for ancient microbial life on the Red Planet. But some of those same engineers have also been busy working with LEGO designers on new one-tenth-scale LEGO Technic buildable models of these very same robotic explorers with the goal of inspiring the next generation of NASA scientists and engineers.

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NASA's Mars Helicopter Went Silent for Six Agonizing Days

The Ingenuity helicopter photographed by the Perseverance rover. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter on Mars has exceeded everyone’s expectations, recently completing its 51st flight when it was supposed to fly just a few times as a demonstration mission. But flights 50 and 51 almost didn’t happen.

In a recent blog post, Travis Brown, Chief Engineer for Ingenuity shared how the team lost contact with the tiny rotorcraft for six excruciating days.

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It’s Time to Figure Out How to Land Large Spacecraft Safely on Other Worlds

Exhaust plume-surface interaction, more commonly known as brownout, while landing on the Moon. (Credit: Reproduced with permission from A. Rahimi, O. Ejtehadi, K.H. Lee, R.S. Myong, Acta Astronautica, 175 (2020) 308-326. ©2018 Elsevier.)

One of the most iconic events in history is Apollo 11 landing on the lunar surface. During the descent, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin are heard relaying commands and data back and forth to mission control across 385,000 kilometers (240,000 miles) of outer space as the lunar module “Eagle” slowly inched its way into the history books.

In the final moments before touchdown, Aldrin can be heard saying, “Picking up some dust”, followed by large dust clouds shooting outward from underneath from the spacecraft as the exhaust plumes interacted with the lunar surface, more commonly known as brownout or brownout effect. This significantly reduced the visibility for Armstrong and Aldrin as they landed, and while they successfully touched down on the Moon, future astronauts might not be so lucky.

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Perseverance Finds an Ancient, Fast Flowing River

In a first for Martian water science, NASA’s Perseverance rover has discovered geological evidence of a large, fast-moving river in Mars’ ancient past. The high-energy river once emptied into Jezero crater, which the rover has been exploring since early 2021, and is a totally different water system than anything seen previously on the red planet.

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We Can Only Bring 30 Samples of Mars Back to Earth. How Do We Decide?

NASA’s Perseverance rover puts its robotic arm to work around a rocky outcrop called “Skinner Ridge” in Mars’ Jezero Crater. Perseverance gathered an important sample of sedimentary rock here. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS

The Mars Sample Return Mission is one of the most ambitious missions ever conceived. Though the samples won’t be returned to Earth until 2033 at the earliest, the Perseverance Rover is busy collecting them right now. Ideally, Perseverance could gather as many samples as we like and ship them all back to Earth. But of course, that’s not possible.

There are limitations, and this means that choosing which samples to return to Earth is an extremely critical task.

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The Perseverance Rover has Lost its Pet Rock

NASA's Mars Perseverance rover acquired this image of a rock inside the rover's wheel, along with the area in front of it using its onboard Front Left Hazard Avoidance Camera A. This image was acquired on May 26, 2022 (Sol 449). Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

It’s the end of an era, at least for the Perseverance rover on Mars, who has lost a long-time friend.

For 427 sols or days on Mars, Perseverance has been carrying around a rock in one of its wheels.  We’ve been following the saga of this pet rock, which for over a year has stuck with Perseverance over the hills and sands of the Martian landscape.

However, according to Dr. Gwénaël Caravaca, who works with the rover’s SuperCam instrument, the team found out overnight in the latest Hazcam image that the rock has been lost.

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Perseverance is Turning Into That Friend That's Always Picking Up Rocks

This image shows the rock core from “Berea” inside inside the drill of NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS

On Thursday, March 30th, NASA’s Perseverance rover drilled and stored the first rock core sample of its newest science campaign. This is the sixteenth sample the rover has taken as part of the ambitious Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission, a collaborative effort between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) to retrieve Perseverance’s samples and bring them back to Earth. Once they arrive (expected to happen by 2033), scientists will analyze them using state-of-the-art machinery too heavy and cumbersome to send to Mars as part of a robotic mission.

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