Life on Mars? Scientists confirm that Mars' Jezero Crater was full of organic materials

The search continues for signs of ancient alien life on the red planet.
Chris Young
A photograph of the Jezero Crater taken by Perseverance.
A photograph of the Jezero Crater taken by Perseverance.

NASA / JPL-Caltech 

NASA's Perseverance mission on Mars has performed several world firsts, including the first controlled flight on another planet and the first extraction of oxygen from the Martian atmosphere.

The mission also confirmed once and for all last year that the Jezero Crater on Mars was once a massive lake. Now, a new study shows that organic molecules featured abundantly in these waters. The findings provide compelling evidence that life may have once existed on the red planet, as per a report by IFLScience.

New Mars findings point to ancient alien life

NASA's Perseverance rover landed on Mars in February 2021. Having spent its first 208 Martian days investigating the planet, the rover has now provided compelling new evidence that organic molecules were once abundant in the lake on the rover's landing site, the Jezero Crater.

In an interview with IFLScience, Dr. Joseph Razzell Hollis, from the Natural History Museum in London, co-lead author on a new study presenting the findings, said, "It looks like Jezero Crater is indeed what we suspected based on orbital imaging. It used to be a lake about three/three and a half billion years ago. And that's really exciting for us, obviously, because liquid water on Mars 3 billion years ago was around the same time that life evolved on Earth. So it raises a question, did that water on Mars also contain the building blocks for life?"

Hollis and Dr. Eva Scheller presented their findings in a new paper published in the journal Science. They used data from the SHERLOC instrument aboard the Perseverance rover to analyze rocks in the Jezero Crater and detect the fluorescence of specific organic compounds.

The researchers explained that these compounds could have resulted in the evolution of life on Mars. However, they would need to analyze similar rock samples in more detail here on Earth before making any firm conclusions.

Perseverance samples will shed new light on ancient Mars

That is exactly what will happen, as NASA and ESA's Mars Sample Return mission is developing the technology required to fly samples back from Mars to Earth so scientists can analyze them. The space agencies expect to do so at some point in the 2030s.

Over the last few months, the Perseverance rover has been studying an ancient river delta that is believed to have fed the lake in the Jezero Crater. It was targeted as the Perseverance rover's landing spot precisely because it was believed to have once been a massive lake. It was an ideal location to collect samples that may provide evidence of ancient microbial life.

In October last year, a study confirmed that the Jezero Crater was a large lake fed by a small river some 3.7 billion years ago. Now, the search for samples continues, with Perseverance and the Curiosity rover continuing to make exciting discoveries.

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