Perseverance Rover's Landing Site: Jezero Crater
NASA chose Jezero crater as the landing site for the Perseverance rover. Scientists believe the area was once flooded with water and was home to an ancient river delta.
Jezero crater tells a story of the on-again, off-again nature of the wet past of Mars. More than 3.5 billion years ago, river channels spilled over the crater wall and created a lake. Scientists see evidence that water carried clay minerals from the surrounding area into the crater lake. Conceivably, microbial life could have lived in Jezero during one or more of these wet times. If so, signs of their remains might be found in lakebed or shoreline sediments.
The process of landing site selection involved a combination of mission team members and scientists from around the world, who carefully examined more than 60 candidate locations on the Red Planet. After the exhaustive five-year study of potential sites, each with its own unique characteristics and appeal, Jezero rose to the top.
The crater is 28 miles (45 kilometers) wide, and is located on the western edge of a flat plain called Isidis Planitia, which lies just north of the Martian equator. Scientists will study how the region formed and evolved, seek signs of past life, and collect samples of Mars rock and soil that might preserve these signs.
- Location: North of the Martian equator, in the Isidis Planitia region (18.4 degrees north / 77.5 degrees east)
- Diameter: 28 miles (45 kilometers)
Take a Tour of Jezero Crater
Fly over Jezero crater on a guided tour with Mars 2020 Project Scientist Ken Farley.
Jezero's Window to the Past
Jezero crater sits within the Isidis Planitia region of Mars, where an ancient meteorite impact left behind a large crater some 750 miles (1200 kilometers) across. This event is known as Isidis impact, and it forever changed the rock at the base of the crater. A later, smaller meteorite impact created the Jezero crater within the Isidis impact basin. Scientists believe that these events likely created environments friendly to life. There is evidence of ancient river flow into Jezero, forming a delta that has long since been dry.
Jezero crater is thus likely to have been habitable in the distant past. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's CRISM instrument has revealed that the crater contains clays, which only form in the presence of water. On Earth, scientists have found such clays in the Mississippi river delta, where microbial life has been found embedded in the rock itself. This makes Jezero crater a great place to fulfill the Mars 2020 mission's science goal of studying a potentially habitable environment that may still preserve signs of past life.
At Jezero crater, Perseverance should be able to access rocks that are as old as 3.6 billion years. There are many ideas about what early Mars was like, and how it came to be what it is today. Accessing the ancient rock at Jezero crater should help answer some of these questions, and tell us more about the formation of rocky planets. It is also a great location for the rover to collect a variety of samples of Martian rock and soil.