A technique for scanning Mars rocks for microscopic fossils of ancient life is also being developed to hunt for microbes in the deep ice of Enceladus, Titan, and Europa.
Long before NASA’s Perseverance rover touched down on the Red Planet on Feb. 18, one of its highest-level mission goals was already established: to seek out signs of ancient life on the Martian surface. In fact, the techniques used by one of the science instruments aboard the rover could have applications on Saturn’s moons Enceladusand Titan as well Jupiter’s moon Europa.
“Perseverance is going to look for a shopping list of minerals, organics, and other chemical compounds that may reveal microbial life once thrived on Mars,” said Luther Beegle, principal investigator for Mars 2020’s Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals (SHERLOC) instrument. “But the technology behind SHERLOC that will look for past life in Martian rocks is highly adaptive and can also be used to seek out living microbes and the chemical building blocks for life in the deep ice of the moons of Saturn and Jupiter.”
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