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Mars rover Perseverance is heading for the Jezero delta

Having recently passed the one-year mark in exploring Mars’s Jezero Crater, the Perseverance rover will soon be packing up and heading off to a new and exciting location: The Jezero delta. As the site of an ancient river delta, this area is one of the most promising locations to search for evidence of ancient life, as it was once an area of warm, shallow water that would be the ideal conditions for the emergence of life.

Until now, the Perseverance rover has been exploring the floor of the Jezero crater and collecting rock samples which will be brought back to Earth for analysis by future missions. Now, the rover will perform a week of analysis before grabbing a sample of a type of rock called Ch’ał which hasn’t been sampled so far. With that sample collected, Perseverance will then be heading to the delta to learn more about the history of water in the region.

NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover used its Left Navigation Camera of target Sid, a higher standing boulder seen just above the rover’s arm.
NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover used its Left Navigation Camera (Navcam) to acquire an image on Feb 24, 2022 (sol 361) of target Sid, a higher standing boulder seen here just above the rover’s arm. Scientists plan to sample this rock before the rover heads to the delta for the mission’s next science campaign. NASA/JPL-

“Once we have our samples in stow, Perseverance will be kicking it into high gear around the northern tip of Séítah and west towards the delta,” Perseverance team member Brad Garczynski wrote in a blog post. “There we will have the opportunity to investigate sedimentary rock layers, clay minerals, and rounded boulders washed down from far beyond Jezero. These features are vestiges of Jezero’s watery past and clear indicators of an ancient habitable environment. If microbial life did exist here in the past, this is one of the best places to look for it as finely layered muds may have buried and preserved a record of that microbial activity.”

In addition to investigating these new features, researchers are preparing to plan Perseverance’s route using previously collected data from the rover’s Mastcam-Z and SuperCam instruments, as well as data collected by orbital explorers to look for the ideal exploration route. Plus, Perseverance will soon have the Ingenuity helicopter nearby to help plan out its route as well.

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