Saturday , May 8 2021

NASA Selects Ancient Crater Lake as a Landing Site for Future Mars Rover

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One of the most significant benefits of Curiosity's work on Mars will not really help Curiosity at all. After years of investigating the Red Planet with probes such as Curiosity, Spirit and Opportunity, we have gathered a lot of information about how water once flowed on Mars. Features that once looked as if they could be made by liquid water had been confirmed to have been formed by him. And that means it's now easier to choose potential landing targets for future missions in ways that maximize our chances of finding what we are looking for when they land.

Latest target? Jezero Crater, an ancient lake on Mars allegedly spent a lot of time with liquid water. Jezero made a short list of NASA, along with alternative locations such as Columbia Hills (home to ancient hot springs discovered by Spirit) and Syrtis Northeast, a group of mesa who may have had underground water reserves. The Jezero crater may be chosen because of the clear signs that the place was once the location of a long submerged area and type of rock in this location. Following is the description of NASA itself about the area:

Jezero is a Noachian crater basin at the western end of the Isidis Basin. This is characterized by Noachian / Early end sediment fluvial / deltaic deposits into the neutral / low (ie, habitable) paleolake salinity. The West and North Delta have been observed from orbit. The West Delta is dominated by Mg-carbonate and related olivine but is less conserved than the Western Delta. The Fill Basin is also dominated by olivine and Mg-carbonate, although it is unclear whether this represents primary detrital deposition, reworking of pre-lacustrine sediments, or exposure of regional Mg-carbonate / olivine units which are more widely observed in Nili Fossae. (Also of unknown origin). A Volcanic Unit (~ 3.5Ga) covers most of the Basin Checks, inflates the eroded scarbase delta, and surrounds the remains of deltas that have been separated from the main delta body by deflation of the aeolian at some point before volcanism.

Translation: There is clear and good evidence that this area is underwater for a sustained period of time – long enough to form deltas, which occur in the same way on Mars as it did on Earth. "Contents of the basin" refers to the layer of sediment deposited into the crater by years of flowing water. Analyzing the material can tell us more about whether life ever existed or not on Mars. Some of this content is buried in the remains of a volcanic eruption dated 3.5B last year. The Noachian period on Mars stretches from 4.1 – 3.7 billion years ago, followed by the Hesperian period. The Noachian is considered to be the time frame in which Mars will retain fluid on its surface, the Hesperian Period is the time of transition where the planet changes from a warmer, wetter environment to the cold and dusty environment we know today. During Hesperian, volcanism, rather than a major impact event, became the main geological process on Mars. The Noachian on Mars is roughly in accordance with the Hadean and the beginning of archeology on Earth.

One area from the landing site proposed in Jezero Crater. Image by NASA / JPL / University of Arizona

There are many reasons for scientists to be curious about Mars in the Noachian period. Noachian impact craters are far more eroded than their Hesperian counterparts, despite the fact that the Noachian and Hesperian periods are relatively close in time. This shows that liquid water is far more freely available during the Noachian, partly because of high frequency events. During the Noachian, the 100km hit will attack Mars, on average, every million years. To put it in perspective, the Chicxulub crater is thought to have destroyed dinosaurs caused by an asteroid diameter of 10-15km.

After the Noachian period, the amount of water-related weathering seen on Mars today dropped dramatically, although it did not decline to zero. The erosion rate in the Noachian period, should be noted, is still much lower than the terrestrial erosion rate as predicted for the same time period or at this time. According to Michael H. Carr and James W. Head III in their 2010 article "Geological History of Mars," erosion rates over this period of time are almost twice lower than the current comparable erosion rates in the United States. Mars, even the most friendly and alive, is not as active as Earth.

According to the Washington Post, NASA chose Jezero Crater because of the variety of terrain it offers. First, clay is considered important for the development of life on Earth, and Jezero Crater has a smectite type clay. Second, the existence of the delta means that life can live on sediment-rich soil or be swept in from upstream from any water system that feeds the crater. Third, volcanic debris in the same location will give us more data about the geological evolution of Mars in the later era when it transitioned to the lifeless rock we know today.

Launching and landing won't be easy. NASA is by far the best track record of any international space agency when it comes to the planet, but statistically, only about 40 percent of Mars's missions have been completed. In this case, the goal for the Mars 2020 rover is to drill and cache samples that can be taken by the next mission, with spacecraft returning the sample to Earth for detailed analysis in the early 2030s. The Mars 2020 mission is set to launch no earlier than July 17, 2020, with the expected landing in February 2021.

Now read: NASA Wants to Make Rocket Fuel from Mars Land, NASA Replaces Curiosity Rover to Backup Computers After Glitch, and University Develops Simulated Mars Land, Selling it for $ 20 Per Kilogram

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