A lot is happening on Mars right now. NASA currently has its Perseverance Rover gearing up to record some of the events with the Ingenuity helicopter’s first flight. The Ingenuity helicopter is one of the more interesting experiments NASA is conducting on the surface of Mars that could result in the first controlled flight on another planet. While Ingenuity is preparing for its flight tests, Perseverance operators noticed an interesting rock nearby and have begun an investigation.
NASA spotted a green-tinged rock sitting on the surface of the Red Planet and turned Perseverance’s laser on the rock. The rock’s origins are a mystery and reportedly have mission scientists trading hypotheses on where the rock is from and how it formed. Scientists wonder if the odd rock is something that weathered from the local bedrock, a chunk of Mars resulting from an impact a long way away, or perhaps a meteorite.
Mission scientists say the rock is about six inches long, and notable on its surface are the row of laser marks where Perseverance investigated the rock’s composition. The laser used is part of the SuperCam instrument. The hope is that over time data learned using the laser can help scientists determine whether the rock formed where it lies or wound up there by some other process.
Researchers believe that if the rock didn’t form at its current location that it could have been carried into the crater by water in the distant past, or it could be a chunk of meteorite Perseverance happened on. The rover is exploring Jezero Crater for signs of ancient life. The area in the distant past was the location of a deep lake and river delta. The laser the rover is using to investigate the rock creates a cloud of vaporized material that can be analyzed by the cameras and spectrometers aboard the rover.