Scheduled for a Feb. 18 Mars landing, the rover will look for signs of past life

New Brunswick, N.J. (Feb. 11, 2021) – Rutgers University-New Brunswick planetary and life scientists are available for comment on NASA’s Perseverance Rover and its scheduled Feb. 18 landing to seek signs of past life on Mars and recover rocks for analysis.

  • Juliane Gross, a Rutgers planetary scientist and NASA’s deputy curator of Apollo moon samples, said, “Jezero Crater, where Perseverance is landing, is an ideal place to help answer fundamental questions about Mars: Did life ever arise there? Were its past and present conditions favorable to life? What roles did wind, water, volcanism, tectonics, cratering and other geological processes play in shaping the surface of Mars, and to what extent may they be modifying its surface today? If we ever want to colonize Mars, we need to know what to expect before we get there – to understand its present climate, what its climate was like in the distant past, and the causes of climate change over time. Rocks and minerals, by recording the conditions and environment of their formation, can help provide the answers.”
  • Paul Falkowski, a Rutgers molecular bioscientist and principal investigator at Rutgers ENGIMA which seeks to understand how proteins evolved to become the predominant catalysts of life on Earth, said, “I was fortunate to see Perseverance being built while lecturing at CalTech in summer of 2019. The instrument payload is extraordinary; a primary goal is to drill into the Martian regolith (‘soil’) and store the nine centimeter-long mini cores in titanium tubes for a future lander to retrieve and return to Earth. That would be the first return of Martian rocks to Earth. If its Ingenuity helicopter works, that would be an amazing engineering feat as it would allow us to observe large areas of craters in high resolution.”


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