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NASA Perseverance Rover Prepares to Drill Into the Delta and Uncover Mars' Secrets

On April 13th, NASA's Perseverance rover arrived at the ancient river delta of Jezero Crater, in a region nicknamed by scientists "Three Forks." That's where it will begin its next campaign, which might reveal more details about Mars' wet past.
NASA's Perseverance rover spots its parachute on the way to the delta 6 photos
Perseverance is getting closer to the ancient river delta on MarsPerseverance is getting closer to the ancient river delta on MarsPerseverance is getting closer to the ancient river delta on MarsPerseverance is getting closer to the ancient river delta on MarsPerseverance is getting closer to the ancient river delta on Mars
The delta is a yet-to-be-explored collection of sedimentary rock layers and boulders swept by a river billions of years ago into a lake system at the western border of Jezero Crater. The fine-grained sediment deposited at the crater's base might have trapped ancient microbial life. This is an incredible opportunity for Perseverance to see if the conditions made life possible at some point on Mars.

The Three Forks location will be the starting point for the rover's second science expedition, the "Delta Front Campaign," which began on April 18th. The team is currently assessing the best path to follow in order to climb the delta, which is roughly 130 ft (40 meters) higher than the crater floor.

Perseverance can travel on two possible routes, called Cape Nukshak and Hawksbill Gap. Currently, scientists are betting on Hawksbill Gap since it would take the rover less time to travel across this path to reach the top of the delta.

However, if additional data suggests the other route is better, the team might reconsider its options. On its way to the top, Perseverance will be busy drilling into ancient, unique rocks and collecting samples, which will be returned to Earth on a future mission.

Over a six-month period, the rover will collect up to eight samples until it reaches the top. On its way down, it will follow some other route and gather more samples. The machine's descent will kickstart another expedition named "Delta Top Campaign," which is also expected to last half a year.

"We will look for signs of ancient life in the rocks at the base of the delta, rocks that we think were once mud on the bottom of 'Lake Jezero.' Higher up the delta, we can look at sand and rock fragments that came from upstream, perhaps from miles away. These are locations the rover will never visit. We can take advantage of an ancient Martian river that brought the planet's geological secrets to us," said Ken Farley, Perseverance project scientist at Caltech in Pasadena.

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