NASA's car-sized rover has spotted evidence of flowing water on Mars

Ancient Mars wasn't just wet. It has experienced serious flooding.

As clear evidence of this water-filled past, NASA recently released an image taken by the Perseverance rover, showing large, heavy boulders completely covering part of Jezero Crater, a dry river delta.

“The rounded rocks seen here are thought to have been washed down by powerful floodwaters into Jezero Crater, which Perseverance is exploring, billions of years ago.” NASA said in a statement. “This occurred during one of three major periods identified by scientists in the evolution of the lake and river system that occupied Jezero Island in the ancient past.”

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About 3.5 billion years ago, large amounts of water flowed across a flat Martian plain called Isids Planitia before breaching the crater walls. Sometimes, the water would flow deep and hard enough to move all these rocks, which you can see below.

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The Perseverance rover captured this rock-strewn area called “Castell Henllys” from a distance of 328 feet (100 meters).
Image source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS

Curiosity, Perseverance's big brother, has also observed clear evidence of momentous water-related events on Mars, about 2,300 miles (3,700 kilometers) from Jezero Crater. Long ago, massive amounts of debris flowed down Mount Sharp on Mars, spewing mud and car-sized boulders down the mountain, leaving the prominent ridge of today.

One of Perseverance's primary missions is to search for possible signs of past life on Mars, although there is no evidence yet. But if microbes did evolve on the Red Planet, the spacecraft would certainly be looking in an ideal place. Jezero was host to streams, rivers, and a sprawling lake 22 miles (35 km) wide. It is possible that life flourished in the moist soil of this region, similar to life on Earth.

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The car-sized robot is also collecting authentic samples from the surface of Mars. NASA wants to closely examine these rocks and soil, and anything they might contain, more closely. “Subsequent NASA missions, in cooperation with the European Space Agency, will send spacecraft to Mars to collect these sealed samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis,” the space agency said.

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