On Mars, there is a crater that bears the strange name of Jezero, a term that in several Balkan languages is used to indicate a lake region, and which is also the name of a very small town in Bosnia that rises near a lake where a small river flows. Just a case? Not really… For some years now, the International Astronomical Union has decided to name the most geologically or biologically interesting Martian craters under the name of small towns and villages on Earth.
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The logic of the choice lies in the fact that the crater in the past was also a lake full of water, and moreover a lake where an ancient and winding Martian river flowed. An environment where, according to NASA experts, ancient organic molecules and other potential signs of microbial life could have been preserved in the water and sediments that flowed in the crater billions of years ago.
And it is precisely among those sediments, where once the river water widened into swamps, that next February 18, Perseverance, the new automatic robot launched last July 30 from Cape Canaveral, will settle down to finally give an important answer to the eternal question about the possibility that there was or still is life on Mars.
Almost a decade of preparation, a ton of weight, seven scientific instruments, a robotic arm, a support drone, 23 high-definition cameras, the first microphones ever brought to the Red Planet…
The mission, which as a whole is called Mars 2020, is one of the most ambitious ever conceived by NASA in recent years. Reaching Mars is not easy, and getting something down on its surface is even more complicated, as space agencies who have tried so far know. The United States is in fact the only country to date to have successfully made controlled landings, bringing several rovers to Mars. The largest of them, Curiosity, is still active after its arrival in 2012 and is still collecting valuable information about the planet.
The Spirit and Opportunity rovers have shown that liquid water once flowed on the surface of Mars. Curiosity discovered that four billion years ago conditions on Mars were favorable for the development of life as we know it. Perseverance will look directly for signs of past life.
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Credits: Ron Miller
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