It may be hard for Robots to identify signs of life on Mars

The ExoMars Mission and Solaris: a unique mission to explore ancient environments, prebiotic chemistry, and prebiotics on Mars

The latest postponement is the third in the mission’s history. Technical issues prevented the launch of the ExoMars rover. The COVID-19 pandemic then delayed a scheduled 2020 flight to 2022, before relations with Russia deteriorated. The cost of this second delay was on the order of €100 million, an ESA spokesperson told Nature.

The money will allow the European Space Agency to begin work on a new landing platform for their first Mars rover. The work became necessary after ESA severed ties with its former partner on the mission, the Russian space agency Roscosmos, in March, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The landing gear for the rover was designed and built by Roscomos, who launched it from its site in Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

The mission was not taken away from us, and that’s good news for me as I plan to use my skills to steer a Rover on Mars one day. Only the United States and China have so far placed working rovers on Mars.

TheExoMars is an incredible mission that will be unique in method and scientific approach if it is launched in the year 2028, says the member of the mission team.

The Franklin rover is carrying a drill that will be used to explore beneath the surface of Mars for signs of ancient life. The European Space Research and Technology Centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, is where the project scientist for the mission is based.

“It’s the first mission which can probe the very early history of terrestrial planets,” adds Tirsch, noting that the rover’s intended landing site, a vast plain called Oxia Planum, records “unique information on ancient, water-rich Mars environments, prebiotic chemistry, and, perhaps, life”.

ESA expects that NASA will help by contributing the mission’s launcher, its braking engine — for use during landing — and its radioisotope-based heating units, said ESA director-general Josef Aschbacher at a press briefing on 23 November. The units are needed for Rosalind Franklin to survive the harsh Martian nights. But European technology will replace the rest of Russia’s lost contribution, he said.

As part of this commitment, ministers agreed to fund the Solaris project, a programme to scope out the viability of developing, from 2025, a space-based solar-power system that would transmit energy to Earth. It has become more viable to use technology that beams down energy from a kilometres-sized solar array in the space station due to the falling costs of space launches.

The Mars Sample Return Mission – Preliminary Results and the Determination of the Age of Human-Matrix Observables

Perseverance landed on Mars in the middle of a 28-mile-wide bowl known as Jezero Crater, with a core mission of looking for signs of ancient life and gathering samples of the Martian environment. Scientists think that Jezero Crater may have had a river that flowed into a large lake in the past which would have provided the environment to support life.

It’s an early stage towards the first-ever Mars sample return. A planetary scientist at Arizona State University says that they are coming up on a big milestone for the Mars sample return.

The depot will also include four crater-floor samples of igneous rocks, which are volcanically derived rocks that will allow researchers back on Earth to determine, for the first time, the absolute age of rocks from a particular place on Mars. Rounding out the collection will be one sample of Martian dirt, one of the Martian atmosphere and one ‘witness tube’ that will show whether Earth contaminants were present during sample collection.

Perseverance is said to be in good shape and will be doing an extended mission to explore the nearby Delta Top territory. The Delta Top campaign is expected to last around eight months and will investigate rocks and sediment that appear to have been carried into the Jezero Crater by an ancient river.

The Mars Sample Return program will deliver rocks and soils to Earth where scientists can analyze them to look for signs of life.

Sampling won’t be arriving on Earth until at least 2033, according to NASA estimates.

That is, obviously, far easier said than done. The Mars sample return mission represents over a decade of work and requires numerous incredibly complex steps to succeed, some of which have never previously been attempted — such as landing a rocket on Mars that’s capable of taking off again. We will be closer to knowing if life exists outside of our planet, if the teams behind the mission can pull it off.

In the foothills of a Mars mountain, NASA was able to spot signs of an ancient lake in the form of rocks etched with the ripples of waves.

The sulfate-bearing unit is a region that was identified by the Mars Reconaissance Orbiter as having salty mineral deposits beneath Mount Sharp. Scientists consider the sulfate-bearing unit to be a location rife with clues about how and why Mars morphed from a watery planet into the frozen place it is today, and researchers have long sought to explore the area in more depth.

Discovery of dark microbes and life forms in the Marker Band Valley with NASA’s Space Telescope Azua-Bustos

“Billions of years ago, waves on the surface of a shallow lake stirred up sediment at the lake bottom, over time creating rippled textures left in rock,” according to a NASA news release.

Specifically, the rocks were discovered in what’s called the Marker Band Valley, a zigzag formation of rocks that stands out against the landscape, thanks to its darker coloring. Marker Band is a scalelike pattern of rocks and was explored by the rover in 2022, it was found that thin, hard rocks cover the surface.

The attempts to get samples from some of the rocks failed because they were hard for the rover to drill. Scientists hope the vehicle will find some softer areas that will be easier to collect samples from.

Since 2004, the rover has explored the Martian surface and climbed the Mount Sharp base. Scientists are particularly interested in the mountain because its suspected past — in which the landmark was surrounded by streams and lakes — could have been host to microbial life forms. That is, if any ever existed on Mars.

There will be more diversity and abundance if biosignatures are better preserved at depth. The rover’s instruments have more chances to detect them.

A team of scientists explored the Red Stone site in northern Chile, which was similar to Jezero Crater because of its sandstone and clay content, and discovered it contained the same iron oxide as Mars.

Researchers took samples from the riverbed and then tested them in a lab. When the lab equipment analysis came to a close, it showed a mixture of biosignatures from both dead and living organisms. Although incredibly dry, the ocean has fog that makes it possible to get water for life.

Many of the microbe DNA sequences came from an unidentifiable “dark microbiome” — a nickname given to the genetic material of previously unknown microorganisms. The researchers coined the term because it’s similar to dark matter — a hypothetical form of matter in the universe that remains unidentified.

“The chance of obtaining false negatives in the search for life on Mars highlights the need for more powerful tools,” said lead study author Dr. Armando Azua-Bustos, a research scientist at the Center of Astrobiology in Madrid.

There will be a need for care when evaluating the first Martian samples returned to Earth, according to the Comment article accompanying the study. The research was not worked on by the man.

Only a couple of small samples can be brought back to Earth for study, because there might be biological activity happening billions of years ago. “It remains to be seen if unambiguous signatures of life can be found in those limited samples. We must not use the absence of strong evidence of life as a sign of its absence.

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