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The search for ancient life on Mars

Perseverance Rover

Event schedule details

Sunday 19 June


Event location details

Ondaatje Lecture Theatre

Royal Geographical Society

Red planet scientists report on the latest findings from NASA’s Perseverance Rover and its ground-breaking search for evidence for possible Martian life.

Last February, NASA’s Perseverance Rover, the most complex surface rover ever sent to Mars, descended at nearly 1000 miles per hour through the thin atmosphere before retro rockets kicked in to ensure a safe landing on the red planet’s surface.

Perseverance is flipping entirely our approach to planetary exploration. After decades of sending small instruments to large planets, the mission entrusted to this car-sized rover represents the first step in returning Martian surface samples to Earth, where a whole planet’s worth of instruments can look for the clues to ancient life. Perseverance will begin this journey by helping planetary geologists back on Earth explore the rocks within an ancient impact crater that was once filled with vast lake to find the most interesting samples for collection.

At the Great Exhibition Road Festival Professor Sanjeev Gupta, member of the scientific team directing the rover's search for rocks that could hold traces of alien life, will discuss the latest findings from the mission and what we can expect when we finally place those first Martian samples under the microscope. This will include some ideas for what finding evidence for ancient life on Mars might look like, and why humanity’s first attempt at returning collected samples from Mars will provide unprecedented insights for generations to come.

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Perseverance Rover