Perseverance rover has discovered potential biometric fingerprints on Mars

A potential biosignature may be due to the presence of life, but also to the absence of life. To consider this biosignature definitive, these samples must be analyzed by powerful laboratory instruments on Earth. NASA plans to bring them back, thanks to another mission, by 2033.

Presence of organic compounds

“I think it’s safe to say that these are going to be, and indeed are, the most valuable rock samples ever collected,” said David Schuster, who works at a press conference on these samples.

Two cores were taken by drilling into a rock called the “Wildcat Mountain Range”, about one meter high and located in a delta formed about 3.5 billion years ago, at the confluence of an ancient river and lake. This rock is particularly interesting because it is a sedimentary rock that appears to have formed when the water in the lake evaporated.

David Schuster, of the University of California, Berkeley, stated that the “Wildcat Range” has a “high potential for biosignature preservation”.

The rock was analyzed separately by a tool at the end of the tenacity robotic arm, and revealed the presence of organic compounds – the most abundant compounds discovered since the mission began a year and a half ago.

“pivotal moment”

Ken Farley, who is in charge of the science part of the mission, declared that these compounds – made in particular of carbon, which can also contain hydrogen – “are the essential elements of life”.

It was discovered in smaller quantities by the rover during previous analyzes at Jezero crater, which contained the lake, but “as we move into the delta, the clues get stronger and stronger,” summed up Sunanda Sharma, a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “Personally, I find these results very moving, because it seems that we are in the right place, with the right machinery, at a pivotal moment.”

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