Mars Perseverance rover finds something unusual about planet’s rock formations

The Curiosity rover had been exploring Mars for three years when its twin, Perseverance, landed on the red planet in February of 2021. Perseverance, about the size of a small car (think Toyota), has a big mission on the Red Planet, including four important objectives during its journey:

  1. Investigate whether past environments supported life.
  2. Searching for signs of microbial life in rocks and soil.
  3. Collect rock and soil samples.
  4. Test the oxygen production levels in the Martian atmosphere.

The rover has already been able to observe some very interesting features in the Martian terrain. Results have taken over a year-and-a-half, but the data is worth the wait. NASA’s latest findings suggest that the planet’s geological history is more complex than previously predicted. 

Perseverance has been plodding its way through the roughly 30-mile wide Jezero Crater and discovering a myriad of things that only raise more questions than answers.

Volcanic slating and sedimentation while entertaining the notion that a previous river existed in the Jezero Crater is a fun but confusing find. The rocky subsurface appears to be slatted or compressed like pages of a book and, even more curious, inclines of up to 15 degrees were marked.

It sounds like something primordial, a potential earth burgeoning into existence and erupting, literally, in every direction of development.

The rover now drives its laborious attention towards a river delta from the Jezero Crater. Once again, more exciting questions posed as answers pervade the teams. This seemingly chaotic terrain sounds like something out of the Earth’s dinosaur age.

The findings are important because they indicate that at one point in Mars’ history, water and lava were flowing through the planet’s surface — likely due to volcanic activity. The research team hopes that this discovery will help them better understand how volcanic activity and lakes flowed on Mars.

“We were quite surprised to find rocks stacked up at an inclined angle,” says David Paige, a UCLA professor of Earth, in a statement.

Scientists expected to find flat, horizontal rocks on the Martian floor. Instead, they found jagged, tilted rock layers. The layers of jagged rocks are even pointing in different directions.

Using the radar imager instrument on the rover, researchers can see 49 feet beneath Perseverance.

Jezero Crater delta
Aerial photo of the remains of a delta where a water source once fed an ancient lake at the Jezero crater. NASA’s Perseverance Rover is currently exploring the area. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU)

This new information will change how scientists think about the planet’s history. It may also lead to new insights into the formation of planets in general and how those planets might differ from Earth. We’re making history with every step we take on this planet. And when we return home and report our findings to Earth? That’s when the real fun begins.

Perseverance is an experiment that will test several technologies and processes in preparation for future human missions to Mars. It also provides valuable scientific data on the nature of the Martian surface and atmosphere, which will help us understand what it might be like to live there someday.

The research is published in the journal Science Advances.

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About the Author

Katie Kinlin

Katie Kinlin is a technical copywriter who loves all things space. She was an educator at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, where she was inspired to pursue a career in aerospace. She helped test 73 internet satellites at OneWeb — all healthy and in Low Earth Orbit.

Her favorite vehicle is the space shuttle.

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