NASA’s Perseverance rover is on a road trip across Mars, and that means stopping for some sightseeing. On Wednesday, NASA shared snaps from a roadside attraction that’s caught the rover team’s attention.
The object of interest is a patch of rock left over from when Jezero Crater was a lake, in the far distant past when Mars was more watery than it is today.
“Check out this patch of rock I found: looks kind of like garden pavers, and is probably exposed bedrock,” NASA tweeted along with a GIF of the rover checking the spot out. “Material like this, from the early days of this ancient lakebed, can help capture what that lake was like.”
Perseverance is logging a few days at the site to get a closer look. The rover has a lot of science ahead, but one of its main missions is to seek out evidence of ancient microbial life on the red planet. A former lake is a perfect place to investigate Mars’ past habitability.
The images shared by NASA show the rover checking out the “pavers” with the gear on the end of its robotic arm.
“The arm lets the rover work as a human geologist would: by holding and using science tools with its ‘hand’ or turret,” NASA said in a rover explainer. “The rover’s own ‘hand tools’ extract cores from rocks, takes microscopic images and analyzes the elemental composition and mineral makeup of Martian rocks and soil.”
NASA’s robotic explorer arrived on Mars in February and is into its first official science campaign with its companion Ingenuity helicopter acting as a scout. The bedrock investigation is a sign of science to come as the rover teases out the story of Mars’ ancient history.