The Sunday Times says

Another step forward as Mars beckons

The successful launch of the Mars 2020 mission from Cape Canaveral in Florida on Thursday put the Perseverance rover and its Ingenuity helicopter finally on the journey to the red planet. America's National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) should be pleased to have participated in a historic moment that belongs to humankind as a whole. Nasa administrator Jim Bridenstine is quoted as having said that this was the first time in history where a mission's goal is explicitly to find life on another world - ancient life on Mars. Key to that quest is the Jezero Crater, the landing site of the Perseverance rover, an SUV-size vehicle. According to Nasa, it chose the crater because scientists believe the area was once flooded with water and was home to an ancient river delta. Jezero Crater recalls the on-again, off-again nature of the wet past of Mars.

More than 3.5 billion years ago, Nasa says, river channels spilled over the crater wall and created a lake. It is conceivable that microbial life existed in Jezero during one or more of the wet times. Signs of their remains might be found in lakebed or shoreline sediments. The result of the mission will not be clear soon because the rover is scheduled to land after travelling through space for about seven months. Yet, once those results begin to arrive, humans would be able to have a better sense of the possibility of life on Mars.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 02, 2020, with the headline 'Another step forward as Mars beckons'. Print Edition | Subscribe