The Perseverance rover which landed on Mars 10 months ago discovered volcanic rocks, fact that was “completely unexpected,” according to mission scientists. Even more, the rocks that Perseverance has sampled revealed that they interacted with water multiple times, and some of them include organic molecules. Perseverance is armed with a suite of sophisticated instruments that can image and analyze these scraped rocks, revealing their composition and mineral content. Perseverance has collected four rock samples with plans to collect up to 37 more. These samples will be returned to Earth by future missions. They can be dated with very high accuracy, so these latest samples could help the team establish more accurate dates for features and events on Mars. “That will tell us whether or not the water that existed there was potentially habitable in the past,” said Kelsey Moore, geobiologist and postdoctoral scholar research associate in planetary science at the California Institute of Technology.
The presence of organic molecules doesn’t necessarily equal signs of past life because organics can be created biologically or abiotically.