Scientists at NASA have made an astonishing discovery on the surface of M – they believe that rock samples taken from an ancient river delta could signal that life once existed on the planet.
The samples taken by the Perseverance rover “reveal a potentially habitable sustained environment” existed on the red planet at some point, meaning that alien life could have too, according to NASA scientists. Since it touched down on the Martian surface in February, Perseverance has been scouring the bed of the Jezero crater, a location picked because it is believed to be an ancient river delta. The ultimate aim was to drill deep down into the sediment of where the river once flowed in search of alien life.
NASA hopes that salt minerals found within rocks on the riverbed have trapped tiny bubbles of ancient Martian water, which could act as microscopic time capsules. The same type of salt minerals are known to preserve ancient life on Earth.
“These samples have high value for future laboratory analysis back on Earth,” said NASA's Mitch Schulte.
“One day, we may be able to work out the sequence and timing of the environmental conditions that this rock’s minerals represent. This will help answer the big-picture science question of the history and stability of liquid water on Mars.”
But hold off on the alien welcome parties for now – the equipment necessary for fully analysing the samples is far too large and complicated to fly to Mars. Instead, the samples will be picked up from the Martian surface by another rover approximately ten years from now as part of a sample return campaign.
“Detailed maps will be provided for any future mission that might go to Mars and pick up these samples for study by scientists,” NASA said.