TechNASA rover finds unique 'popcorn rock' in search for ancient life

NASA rover finds unique 'popcorn rock' in search for ancient life

Unusual rocks on Mars
Unusual rocks on Mars
Images source: © ASU, JPL-Caltech, NASA
Karolina Modzelewska

20 June 2024 13:22

NASA's Perseverance rover has been gathering valuable information about Mars since 2021. Its journey list has numerous locations that may hold traces of ancient life. According to NASA, Perseverance had just left Mount Washburn and arrived at an area known as Bright Angel, where a unique type of rock was found. Scientists, due to its appearance, call it "popcorn rock." Its existence further suggests that there was once water in Jezero Crater.

The Perseverance rover has been searching for traces of ancient life on Mars for several years. Its main area of interest is Jezero Crater, chosen by scientists as a region on the Red Planet where the ancient environment could have supported microbiological life. The rover, equipped with specialized instruments, including a special drill and robotic arm, collects samples of Martian rocks and sediments to send them to Earth eventually.

NASA's Perseverance rover searches for traces of life

NASA reports that Perseverance is currently focused on studying the Bright Angel area. This area is characterized by bright rocky outcrops that may represent ancient rocks exposed due to river erosion or sediments filling a channel. The team hopes to find rocks different from those in the carbonate—and olivine-rich marginal unit and gather more clues about Jezero's history.

Already, it has observed "popcorn rocks," named by experts due to their shape and distribution. According to NASA, these are rocks unlike any previously seen by Perseverance. Their existence may further suggest that Jezero Crater was once filled with water. After exploring the Bright Angel area, NASA will direct the rover to Serpentine Rapids.

The material that Perseverance collects during its Martian journey will be sent to Earth in the future as part of the Mars Sample Return mission, which will be carried out by NASA and ESA. The plan involves launching a container with samples from the surface of Mars and capturing them in orbit by a specially prepared spacecraft. It will safely deliver the samples to Earth, which will most likely happen in the early 2030s.

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