Was There Life on Mars?
Mars Perseverance Sol 950 - Front Right Hazard Avoidance Camera: In this image acquired by the Front Hazard Avoidance Camera on Sol 950 (October 22, 2023), Perseverance looks down at an array of rocks in the Turquoise Bay workspace after drilling its 23rd core for future return to Earth. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Download image ›

Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, and distribution of life in the Universe, and searching for life on Mars is a major goal of the Mars 2020 mission. While humans have long wondered whether there are others like us, it’s only been a few decades since we’ve developed the technologies to search for life beyond Earth in earnest. With space-based telescopes like James Webb, astronomers look up for planetary-scale chemical signs of life on exoplanets; with ground-based radio astronomy, astrophysicists listen for signals or communications transmitted by intelligent species from galaxies faraway; and with landed missions to Mars and other Solar System bodies, planetary scientists and geologists look down for physical and chemical signs of life preserved in rock and ice. Finding extraterrestrial life is a central aspect of astrobiology, but finding no life on a once-habitably rocky planet like Mars would be equally important, because it would help us look back into our own origins to query what makes Earth biologically unique, and would also help us prepare to search for life elsewhere.

Jezero Crater was selected as the Mars 2020 landing site because of its astrobiological potential. Billions of years ago it hosted a lake, back when Mars was warm and wet, more hospitable and Earth-like. Water is essential for life as we know it, and sedimentary rocks that form through aqueous activity can be excellent physical preservers of biological materials. Perseverance has also found evidence for igneous minerals, and these lithologies can be important for life as well: on Earth, volcanic rocks provide energy-rich substrates for microbes to feed upon and inhabit. If ancient life existed in or around Jezero, fossilized remnants of those ancient organisms could still remain as morphological, elemental, or molecular biosignatures preserved in rock today. To aid in this search, Perseverance carries a suite of on-board instruments to select astrobiologically-interesting samples to send back to Earth. 23 cores have been collected thus far! Robotic rover tools can reveal a lot about potential for habitability, but returning physical samples is absolutely critical for determining whether these rocks do contain evidence of life. For example, billion-year-old cells and fossilized biomolecules preserved in geologic samples on Earth are studied with large, complex analytical instruments housed in laboratories. Returning cores from Jezero will allow scientists to apply the same techniques to extraterrestrial samples too! Regardless of what we find, searching for life in these little Martian rocks represents an astronomical leap towards determining whether there was life on Mars, which will in turn give us a better understanding of who we are, where we came from, and where we’re going.

About This Blog

These blog updates are provided by self-selected Mars 2020 mission team members who love to share what Perseverance is doing with the public.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these blogs are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

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  • Mariah Baker
    Planetary Scientist, Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum
    Washington, DC
  • Matthew Brand
    SuperCam/ChemCam Engineer, Los Alamos National LaboratoryLos Alamos National Laboratory
  • Sawyer Brooks
    Docking Systems Engineer, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Adrian Brown
    Deputy Program Scientist, NASA HQ
    Washington, DC
  • Denise Buckner
    Student Collaborator, University of Florida
    Gainesville, FL
  • Fred Calef III
    Mapping Specialist, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Stephanie Connell
    SuperCam, PhD Student, Purdue University
    West Lafayette, IN
  • Alyssa Deardorff
    Systems Engineer, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Kenneth Farley
    Project Scientist, Caltech
    Pasadena, CA
  • Phylindia Gant
    Mars 2020 Student Collaborator, University of Florida
    Gainesville, FL
  • Brad Garczynski
    Student Collaborator, Purdue University
    West Lafayette, IN
  • Erin Gibbons
    Student Collaborator, McGill University
    Montreal, Canada
  • Michael Hecht
    Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) Principal Investigator, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Westford, MA
  • Louise Jandura
    Chief Engineer for Sampling & Caching, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Elisha Jhoti
    Ph.D. Student, University of California, Los Angeles
    Los Angeles, CA
  • Bavani Kathir
    Student Collaborator on Mastcam-Z, Western Washington University
  • Lydia Kivrak
    Student Collaborator, University of Florida
    Gainesville, FL
  • Athanasios Klidaras
    Ph.D. Student, Purdue University
  • Rachel Kronyak
    Systems Engineer, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Steven Lee
    Perseverance Deputy Project Manager, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • An Li
    Student Collaborator on PIXL, University of Washington
  • Justin Maki
    Imaging Scientist and Mastcam-Z Deputy Principal Investigator, NASA/JPL
  • Forrest Meyen
    MOXIE Science Team Member, Lunar Outpost
  • Sarah Milkovich
    Assistant Science Manager, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Eleanor Moreland
    Ph.D. Student, Rice University
    Houston, Texas
  • Asier Munguira
    Ph.D. Student, University of the Basque Country
  • Matt Muszynski
    Vehicle Systems Engineer, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Claire Newman
    Atmospheric Scientist, Aeolis Research
    Altadena, CA
  • Avi Okon
    Sampling Operations Deputy Lead, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Pegah Pashai
    Vehicle Systems Engineer Lead, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • David Pedersen
    Co-Investigator, PIXL Instrument, Technical University of Denmark (DTU)
    Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Eleni Ravanis
    Student Collaborator, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
    Honolulu, HI
  • Thirupathi Srinivasan
    Robotic Systems Engineer, NASA/JPL
  • Kathryn Stack
    Deputy Project Scientist, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Vivian Sun
    Science Operations Systems Engineer, Staff Scientist, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Iona (Brockie) Tirona
    Sampling Engineer, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Jennifer Trosper
    Project Manager, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Vandi Verma
    Chief Engineer for Robotic Operations, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Rick Welch
    Deputy Project Manager, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Roger Wiens
    Principal Investigator, SuperCam / Co-Investigator, SHERLOC instrument, Purdue University
    West Lafayette, IN

Tools on the Perseverance Rover+

The Perseverance rover has tools to study the history of its landing site, seek signs of ancient life, collect rock and soil samples, and help prepare for human exploration of Mars. The rover carries:


Where is the Rover?

Image of a rover pin-point at Perseverance's location on Mars, Jezero Crater

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