We train astronauts to identify and travel to 'Deltas,' extract rock samples, analyse them, and preserve the samples for return missions.
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Evidence of life on Mars can be established by analysis of cells preserved in rocks, or at a much smaller scale: compounds called biosignatures(molecular fossils that give an indication of the organisms that created them). But over time, these biosignatures may be destroyed or transformed and no longer be recognised. One way for future missions to find fossils is to analyze samples from Deltas, which are areas where scientists believe a river once flowed into a lake and deposited rocks and sediments in a fan shape. Deltas are the best places on Mars to search for signs of ancient microbial life. Perseverance rover has already taken samples from an ancient river delta in the Jezero Crater.
The astronaut uses the following devices to analyse rock samples:
SHERLOC(Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals) uses cameras, spectrometers, and laser to search for organics and minerals that have been altered by watery environments
Handheld X-ray Fluorescence Spectrometer identifies the elements objects are made of by using high-energy X-rays
Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy instrument identifies light elements in objects by using a pulse of infrared waves
Metrics: Accuracy in identifying viable Deltas Time taken to travel to Delta Accuracy in identified biosignatures in rock sample Effectiveness of preserving rock sample(Time taken for biosignatures present to degrade)