NASA’s Perseverance rover that was sent to Mars is closer than ever to finding life on the red planet.
The rover has taken a number of measurements and samples in an area called Skinner Ridge that indicate signs of ancient life.
Organic materials in the samples appear to have been carried to this location by running water billions of years ago.
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Although these are not definite signs of life on Mars, it shows the rover is looking in the right place.
“If this is a treasure hunt for potential signs of life on another planet, organic matter is a clue,” NASA scientist Sunanda Sharma said.
Before you get your hopes too high about Perseverance finding life on Mars just yet, we won’t be able to find definitive signs of life in these samples until they’re brought back to Earth in 2028.
However, these are just the latest samples with organic materials the rover has found, so there’s plenty to work with.
How does the Perseverance Mars rover work?
Perseverance was first sent to Mars in July 2020, landing on the planet in February 2021.
The vehicle’s purpose on Mars is all centered around the potential for human inhabitation.
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As it has successfully done here, it looks for habitability and signs of past life.
It also collects samples for analysis back on Earth, and tracks the planet’s oxygen levels.
And of course, it takes plenty of photos for us to see back here on Earth.
Perseverance draws heavily upon its predecessor, Curiosity, in its design.
Like Curiosity, it has six wheels and a robotic arm to collect samples.
However, its wheels are wider and stronger, featuring cleats for traction and titanium spikes for durability.
Its main robotic arm is longer as well, while there’s also another under the vehicle for moving samples between various stations of analysis.
The rover is powered by a thermoelectric generator that uses Plutonium-238 oxide to charge its lithium-ion batteries.
Rather than using solar panels, this system means the rover can keep operating in thick dust storms that occur on Mars.
At 1025kg (2260lbs) it weighs about the same as a small hatchback.
The rover also carried a small solar-powered helicopter to Mars called Ingenuity, which is testing if flight is possible within Mars’ atmosphere.