They could tell if Mars ever could host life, the first two rocks taken on the red planet by NASA’s Perseverance rover and destined to arrive on Earth after 2030, thanks to the missions of the Mars Sample Return (Msr) program. Montdenier and Montagnac are the names assigned to the two rock samples, thin as a pencil and about six centimeters long.

They were taken from the small rock called Rochelle and the characteristics of both indicate that they have been in contact with water for a long time, thus reinforcing the hypothesis that long ago the red planet may have hosted life forms. “Our first rocks appear to reveal the presence of a life-sustaining environment,” observed mission chief scientist Ken Farley.

Both champions are now stored in the containers that Perseverance continues to carry inside and which it will collect in the future at a site close to its scope. From there they will be picked up by the first mission of the MSR program, promoted by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) and to which Italy collaborates with the Italian Space Agency (ASI) and with industry.

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