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UH Scientists Excited to Search for Ancient Life on Mars After Successful Rover Landing

February 19, 2021, 9:12 AM HST
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With the successful landing of the rover, Perseverance, on Mars, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa scientists will now start their search for signs of ancient life.

On Feb. 18, Mānoa scientists and students gathered to watch the rover’s landing via NASA TV. They cheered, clapped and breathed relief at its successful touchdown.

“Yeah, it was very exciting, we have been waiting for that day for a long time,” said Shiv Sharma, Hawaiʻi Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, Researcher. “So everybody was so happy to see that it landed safely.”

UH scientists will be operating the rover around Jezero Crater, roughly a six-mile region for the next two years, to search for clues about past life on Mars.

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“I’m most excited to get over towards the delta deposits because that’s one of the outcrops, one of the areas, that have the greatest potential for containing sediments that have signs of ancient life in it,” said Sarah Fagents, Hawaiʻi Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, Researcher. “So I can’t wait to see what those deposits look like.”

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The rover is equipped with a Mastcam-Z multispectral stereo camera system that is has a powerful zoom function—enabling the team to identify rocks, soils and other targets that deserve a closer look by other instruments. With such equipment, scientists hope to characterize the planet’s geology and climate, and collect carefully selected rock and sediment samples for a possible return to Earth by a future mission.

The SuperCam instrument team will assist with detection of biosignatures—indicators that life existed in the distant past.

“I’m excited that we’re going to be directly interacting with the surface of another planet, to me that is the most profound thing I can ever imagine doing, so I’m just excited to get roving,” said Francesca Carey, Hawaiʻi Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, Graduate Student.

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