Almost a year since its launch from Earth, NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover has begun its search for alien life on the red planet. Using the latest technology the probe is equipped with, it has sent data including pictures back to NASA. Scientists say it is the best-ever composition analysis of Martian dust, even when it was a test run. Currently, the six-wheeled Mars probe is in the Cratered Floor Fractured Rough area of the Jezero Crater. According to scientists, the crater was a lake billions of years ago, which dried out later. Now, the rover is crawling across its broken red floor and looking for samples to examine.
“If life was there in Jezero Crater, the evidence of that life could be there,” said Abigail Allwood, an astrobiologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratories, in a statement. Allwood heads the investigation using PIXL, Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry, an X-ray device that the rover is supposed to use for analysis of the Martian soil samples.
Other than PIXL, the rover uses two more hunters, SHERLOC and WATSON. SHERLOC, or Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals, identifies minerals in the Martian rocks using an ultraviolet laser, while the camera WATSON, or Wide Angle Topographic Sensor for Operations and eNgineering, takes closeup pictures that scientists could further analyse them for roundness, texture, and grain size. The master PIXL maps out the chemical composition of the rock using X-rays. Combined all of their powers together, they form a robust detective team.
Their early pictures by WATSON have already produced a trove of data. Among other things, scientists have found the presence of “cement,” on Mars using the data. Scientists believe that further geological findings will tell us about the formation of the planet. Moreover, they will be key in terms of determining the potential of alien life on the planet. By characterising mars’ geology and climate, Perseverance’s voyage is aimed at finding evidence of present or past alien life, one of the key objectives of the mission, and pave the way for future human exploration of the red world.