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HomeSpace NewsPerseverance Rover Reaches 'Bright Angel' on Mars

Perseverance Rover Reaches ‘Bright Angel’ on Mars

NASA’s Perseverance rover has reached a new and exciting region on Mars called “Bright Angel” after overcoming a series of challenges on its journey. The rover, which landed in Jezero Crater in 2021, has been exploring the ancient river channel of Neretva Vallis, searching for signs of past microbial life.

As Perseverance traced the south side of Neretva Vallis, the team set their sights on the “Bright Angel” area. The team named this region for the light-toned outcrops that may be ancient rocks uncovered by a previously running river. However, an unexpected field of boulders obstructed the rover’s path, significantly slowing its progress.

“What had been drives averaging over a hundred meters per Martian day went down to only tens of meters. It was frustrating,” said Evan Graser, an engineer who helps plan Perseverance’s route. “But we knew that the potential discoveries in the ‘Bright Angel’ region were worth the extra effort.”

To bypass the boulders, the rover’s team decided to reroute Perseverance across a dune field and through the river channel. This proved to be the right decision, as the rover was able to navigate the dunes and reach the “Bright Angel” landing area.

Once in the river channel, Perseverance was able to cover around 200 meters (650 feet) per Martian day, a significant improvement in its pace. Along the way, the rover encountered an interesting geological feature called “Mount Washburn,” which presented scientists with exciting opportunities for study.

Composed of 18 images, this natural-color mosaic shows a boulder field on "Mount Washburn" in Mars' Jezero crater.
Composed of 18 images, this natural-color mosaic shows a boulder field on “Mount Washburn” in Mars’ Jezero crater. (Image Credit: NASA/JPL-CALTECH/ASU/MSSS)

According to the NASA Science blog, “Rocks found in Neretva Vallis could have come from far upstream, allowing us to examine material which may have come from many kilometers away.” The team studied a bright boulder with dark speckles, called “Atoko Point,” using Perseverance’s Mastcam-Z and SuperCam instruments, and were particularly intrigued by its unique features.

The presence of these bright rocks in the “Bright Angel” region has piqued the interest of the Perseverance team. “These bright rocks are situated within the Margin Unit, an area around the upper edge of Jezero Crater,” explained Abigail Fraeman, the deputy project scientist for the Perseverance mission. “We’re excited to study the chemistry and appearance of these rocks as the rover continues its traverse through this challenging terrain.”

The “Bright Angel” region is of particular interest because it is believed to have enhanced signals of carbonate minerals, which could provide valuable insights into the ancient habitability of Jezero Crater. Carbonates are a key indicator of past habitable environments, as they can form in the presence of liquid water and may even preserve biosignatures – potential signs of past microbial life.

“The discovery of an ancient lake in Jezero Crater, revealed by ground-penetrating radar, raises hopes that Perseverance may have already found signs of fossilized life on Mars,” said Ken Farley, the project scientist for the Perseverance mission. “The ‘Bright Angel’ region could be a crucial piece of the puzzle in understanding the geological history and potential habitability of this intriguing crater.”

After reaching a cliff near the north edge of the channel, Perseverance turned west and finally arrived at the “Bright Angel” region, where it began analyzing the rocks. The rover’s instruments, including Mastcam-Z, Navcam, and SuperCam, are being used to study the chemistry and appearance of these bright rocks, providing valuable data to the science team.

The successful navigation through the challenging terrain and the rover’s arrival at the “Bright Angel” region marks another milestone in Perseverance’s ongoing exploration of Mars. As the rover continues its search for signs of past life and collects samples for potential return to Earth, these discoveries are sure to contribute to our understanding of the Red Planet’s history and potential for habitability.

Selig Amoak
Selig Amoak
Selig is a passionate space enthusiast and advocate. He has been fascinated by space since he was a child, and his passion has only grown over the years. Selig is particularly interested in the exploration of Mars and the search for life beyond Earth. Selig is also a strong believer in the importance of space education and outreach. He is currently a student at the University of Mines and Technology, and he is excited to use his skills and knowledge to contribute to the space education community.
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