SHERLOC: NASA’s Perseverance Rover sees Mars in a new light

In a recent research, a cutting-edge tool called SHERLOC—which looks for compounds perhaps connected to ancient life—played a crucial role.

Thanks to SHERLOC, a cutting-edge sensor on the rover’s robotic arm, NASA’s Perseverance rover may have discovered a varied assortment of organics during its first 400 days on Mars. Organics are carbon-based substances thought to be the foundation of life. Whether the chemicals came from biological or geological origins is unknown to the mission’s scientists, who are looking for proof that the planet formerly hosted microbial life. Nevertheless, they are interested.

SHERLOC, an acronym for Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals, aids researchers in determining whether or not a sample is worthwhile obtaining. The Mars Sample Return campaign therefore requires the equipment to be successful. The campaign’s initial stage is the Perseverance rover, a joint effort by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA).

It aims to return carefully chosen samples from Mars back to Earth so that they may be investigated there using lab apparatus that is considerably more sophisticated than that which could be transported to the Red Planet. It would be necessary to return the samples to verify the presence of organics.

The core of SHERLOC’s capabilities is a method that examines the chemical composition of rocks by examining how they scatter light. An ultraviolet laser is pointed at the target by the equipment. The Raman effect, a phenomenon that describes how that light is absorbed and then released,

Offers a distinct spectral “fingerprint” of various substances. As a result, scientists are better able to categorize the minerals and organics found in rocks and comprehend the environment in which they arose. For instance, different minerals might occur in saltier water than in fresh water.

SHERLOC uses its WATSON (Wide Angle Topographic Sensor for Operations and Engineering) camera to record the textures of rocks, then adds information to the photos to produce spatial maps of the chemicals present on the rock’s surface. The outcomes, described in.

Lead author Sunanda Sharma of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California said, “These detections are an exciting example of what SHERLOC can find and they’re helping us understand how to look for the best samples.” SHERLOC and the Perseverance rover were both manufactured by JPL.

Gale Crater, 2,300 miles (3,700 kilometers) from Perseverance, has been verified to contain organic compounds numerous times by NASA’s Curiosity rover, which arrived on Mars in 2012. SAM, or the Sample Analysis on Mars, is an equipment within Curiosity that burns up powderized rock samples and analyzes the vapor that results.

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