Mars Rock Specimens: The Stories They Can Tell

Diligence in work


What secrets could be unraveled by studying Martian samples in state-of-the-art laboratories on Earth? Scientists around the world are eager to find out.

By the late fall of 2023, NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover has collected 21 scientifically selected samples of Mars, which will answer the question, „Was there ever life on Mars?” Scientists believe that extraordinary evidence may help answer such centuries-old questions. and „How did the Red Planet evolve over time?”

The Perseverance rover has collected a variety of models, including:

  • Sedimentary rocks are excellent at preserving ancient life
  • Igneous rocks that can tell about the early evolution of Mars
  • The regolith can provide insight into the global and local topography of Mars

Through a series of future missions called Mars Sample Return, these samples could be brought back to Earth for deeper study and help astronomers search for signs of ancient microbial life on the Red Planet.

Mars Sample Return, considered one of the highest priorities of scientists in the 2023-2032 Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey, is the first mission to return samples from another planet and offers the best opportunity to reveal the early evolution of Mars. to ancient life. NASA has partnered with ESA (European Space Agency) in this important initiative.

Read all carefully selected samples:

Learn more about the Mars Sample Return Campaign:


Mini Wadhwa: The big question we have on Mars is, was there life there?

Sunanda Sharma: The Perseverance rover is currently exploring various rocks on Mars, collecting samples of those rocks and dust, storing the sample collection people, and hopefully bringing them back to Earth in the future. All the best labs we have.

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Mini Vatva: Some of these potentially habitable environments that we have characterized well on Mars may have had life at some point in the very ancient past. That’s the environment now being diligently explored at Jezero Crater.

Sunanda Sharma: Jezero Crater is very interesting for this work because it’s an ancient lake and there’s this delta that goes into the lake. And that’s right, because if you think about the rivers that exist on Earth, all these signs of life are sedimented and stored for a long time. We are looking for life that we think existed billions of years ago.

Mini Wadhwa: In fact, we already have a treasure trove of better models than we could ever imagine at this point. We have many different types of rocks, including sedimentary rocks, which means they were formed by water and are amazing at preserving evidence of ancient life. We found and collected volcanic rocks that actually solidified molten magma and could tell us about the early evolution of Mars.

By studying these ancient rocks on Mars we can learn something about the processes of planet formation, planetary evolution, and indeed we can extrapolate the conditions on Earth. There is literally no preserved rock record on Earth. But on Mars, we can actually see the ancient history of that early planetary evolution. How did the planets form and evolve in the inner solar system? We can get that by studying the rocks of ancient Mars.

Sunanda Sharma: What we can do with this mission is go deeper into the crater, the delta front, the upper fan and beyond, and then get those samples back and do every kind of analysis that you can do. And for astronomers, that’s the dream. You get breath, you get depth, and you get all the ambience.

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Mini Wadhwa: This will be a transformative moment for the entire scientific community as it will provide the opportunity to study these samples for decades and train generations of scientists.

As we look out into space, the big question as humans is, are we alone in this universe? Have we always been alone in this universe? These rocks have truly incredible stories to tell about the history of Mars and the possibility of ancient life on Mars.

For more information on rock samples from Mars:

NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC/MSFC/JSC/MAVEN/Lunar and Planetary Institute

Images: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS; Mastcam-Z images: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS


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