Martian lake. This is the Jazero Crater — the site where it is hoped Perseverance will land. More than 3.8 billion years ago, a river flowed into the 45-kilometre-wide crater, and filled it with water (Jezero means ‘lake’ in several Slavic languages). Previous studies suggest that, along the crater’s rim, carbonate minerals settled out and hardened into rock. On Earth, ancient carbonate rocks hold some of the oldest-known evidence of life, so if life on Mars ever existed, Jezero’s carbonates are a good place to look for it.
Heavenly take-off. China’s mission, Tianwen-1 (which means ‘questions to heaven’), aims to conduct a global survey of Mars, including studying its geological structures, surface characteristics and climate. The 5,000-kilogram craft — which contains a lander, orbiter and rover — blasted off from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center in Hainan Island on 23 July aboard a Long March-5 rocket. It will be the country’s first attempt to land a probe on Mars.