Mystery On Mars | Elements of Science Magazine | Publications | Kennedy College of Sciences


By Edwin L. Aguirre

How did Mars kind? Did liquid water exist lengthy sufficient on the Martian floor to doubtlessly assist the event of microbial life? 

These are simply a number of the questions that NASA hopes to reply as its most refined robotic rover, named “Perseverance,” explores the purple planet.

Kennedy Faculty of Sciences Dean and Physics Prof. Noureddine Melikechi is a member of the science crew for SuperCam, one of many essential devices onboard Perseverance that’s used to conduct laser experiments on the Martian floor.

The SUV-sized rover efficiently landed in 2021 inside Jezero Crater, a 28-mile-wide, dried-up impression basin positioned within the Martian northern hemisphere. Round 3.5 billion years in the past, a river flowed into the crater, depositing mud, sand, gravel and different sediments.

Scientists consider the crater’s historic deposits might have gathered and preserved natural com kilos and different potential proof of microbial life.

SuperCam makes use of a method referred to as laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy, or LIBS, to look at the chemical and mineral composition of Martian rocks and soils by zapping them with a robust infrared laser.

It fires intense laser pulses at distant rocks, boulders or sediments, heating a spot on them to round 18,000 levels Fahrenheit. A spectrometer data the sunshine emitted by the vaporized cloud of supplies. The information is then transmitted to Earth for evaluation. SuperCam has already helped Perseverance to make some floor breaking discoveries. An evaluation of the instrument’s information revealed that huge flash floods as soon as inundated Mars. SuperCam additionally confirmed that as a substitute of sedimen tary rocks, which one would anticipate from river delta and lakebed deposits, Jezero Crater’s rocks are largely made up of igneous rocks, that are shaped from mol ten volcanic materials. Melikechi co-authored a paper within the journal Science Advances final yr that introduced the volcanic historical past of Jezero Crater.

Along with Melikechi, the SuperCam science crew consists of dozens of researchers from Los Alamos Nationwide Laboratory, the U.S. Geological Survey, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Caltech, Johns Hopkins College and different establishments.


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