Since landing on Mars a year ago, NASA’s Perseverance Rover has travelled more than 3 kilometres across rocky terrain, filmed the first helicopter fly on the planet, and gathered six valuable rock samples that will be returned to Earth, along with many more, for study if all goes well. On February 18, 2021, Perseverance landed at Jezero Crater, close north of the Martian equator, with the purpose of looking for clues of previous life.
The US$2.7 billion Rover was designed to explore for these indications in an ancient delta, where sediments and rocks were deposited by a river that once flowed into the crater, creating an environment that could have supported life. However, the Rover has yet to reach it. Instead, Perseverance has spent the year rolling around the crater’s bottom, discovering a slew of new facts, including the fact that Jezero’s floor is formed of volcanic rocks.
Researchers will be able to date rocks from precise locations on Mars’ surface if and when Perseverance’s samples return to Earth. When the Rover began ready to drill its first sample on August, scientists discovered that Jezero’s floor wasn’t what they expected. Perseverance ground through a piece of Martian rock to disclose a fresh surface while investigating the geology of the area.