Mars Unveiled: Purdue’s Quest for Ancient Life on the Red Planet


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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Steering NASA’s Mars rover, Dr. Briony Horgan of Purdue University leads Perseverance into unexplored Martian zones, hunting for ancient life’s traces.

Concentrating on the Jezero Crater’s edge, where the rover made its debut, Horgan seeks ancient microbial life’s chemical remnants in Mars’ rocky layers. The crater, reminiscent of Earth’s Lake Tahoe, might house a “bathtub ring” of carbonate minerals, echoing Earth’s beachy shores.

This new “margin campaign,” co-led by Horgan and doctoral student Brad Garczynski, targets this carbonate-rich shoreline. Satellite data supports the carbonate hypothesis, bolstering hopes of unveiling Mars’ hidden biological stories.

Landing in February 2021, Perseverance’s journey began in July 2020 and will extend nearly to 2030. Horgan’s geology acumen places her in a pivotal role, as the team explores Martian carbonates and altered rocks to decode Mars’ astrobiological and environmental history.

“Normally, we see carbonates forming on Earth in very shallow water, and they are great for trapping signs of microbial activity because these shallow zones are fed by light and nutrients coming in,,” Horgan mentions.

The mission will also inspect a river channel intersecting Jezero’s rim, with explorations anticipated to continue through May.


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