As NASA’s rover, Perseverance, explores the surface of Mars, scientists looking for signs of ancient life on distant planets are using data collected during a mission closer to a lake in southwestern Turkey.

NASA says the mineral and rock deposits in Salda are the closest matches on Earth to the Jezero Crater that the spacecraft landed on and is believed to have been submerged.

The information gathered from Lake Salda may help scientists find fossil traces of microbial life believed to be deposited in the sediments around the delta and its long-lost lakes where it once foraged.

Thomas Zurbuchen, deputy director of science at NASA, told Reuters, “Salda…will become a powerful analogue in which we can learn and interrogate.”

A team of planetary scientists from the United States and Turkey conducted research on the shoreline of the lake in 2019. The lake is called the Maldives of Turkey because of its azure water and white shore.

Scientists believe that the sediments around the lake will be eroded by microbial mounds, which are called microbial rocks.

The team behind Perseverance Wanderers (this is the most advanced astrobiology laboratory ever) wanted to know whether there were microorganisms in the crater of Jezero.

They will also compare the beach deposits in Salda with carbonate minerals (formed from carbon dioxide and water, which are key components of life), which are found on the edge of Jezero Crater.

Zurbuchen said: “When we find something in perseverance, we can look back at Lake Salda to really study the two processes, (focusing on) the same, but equally important Yes, the real difference between perseverance and Lake Salda.”

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“So we are very happy to have the lake because I think it will be with us for a long time.”

Rock samples drilled from the Martian soil will be stored on the surface, with a view to eventually being retrieved and transmitted to Earth by two future robotic missions as early as 2031.

Thomson Reuters 2021 ©

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