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For decades NASA has been involved with research at Mono Lake, and today we watch with extra excitement and pride as the Perseverance rover lands with new scientific instruments partially developed and tested right here at our home planet’s “Martian” lake. The new robotic drill for mineral sampling and caching tested at Mono Lake is key to the mission’s scientific focus on finding out whether there was ever any life on Mars in the past.
In 2010, NASA scientists and partners at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory tested computer codes for the drill by boring into tufa near Old Marina. By taking core samples of similar calcium carbonate formations on Mars the researchers hope to find further evidence about the past conditions and perhaps even find evidence of ancient life itself.
The dynamic history of Mono Lake has shown the resilience and peculiarity of life on Earth. Someday soon, its unique geology and extreme conditions may help expand this understanding beyond Earth.
Scientific American article from 2010: A Wet Run for a Dry Planet: NASA Tests Drilling Technology in the Desert with Mars Sample Return in Mind
Top photo by Geoff McQuilkin.