NASA’s Perseverance rover has finally arrived at Mars’ river delta, and as it prepares to hunt for life there, it shared two incredible photos of the new terrain. Since it landed on Mars in February 2021, all of Perseverance’s time has been spent in the Jezero Crater — a 28-mile-wide crater left by a meteorite billions of years ago. The Jezero Crater is believed to have once been habitable and had ancient rivers flowing through it, making it a prime candidate for Perseverance to hunt for life on the Red Planet.

After exploring the Jezero Crater for over a year, NASA recently embarked Perseverance on the next leg of its Martian journey. The rover began heading to Mars’ river delta on March 17. Like the Jezero Crater, the river delta is believed to be a hotspot for ancient Martian life. Three miles and a month of travel later, Perseverance has finally arrived at the river delta — and it shared two incredible photos of what the area looks like.

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The first photo (see above) reveals the delta’s famous ‘bacon strip.’ While it’s not a tasty breakfast treat, it might be hiding secrets about Mars’ rich history. Per the Perseverance Twitter account, “Now that I’ve made it to the delta, I’m getting a closer look at this section of light-colored rock my team’s been eyeing. Could it be mudstone from the ancient lake?” If that rock does turn out to be the remains of an old lake, sampling it could reveal what that lake contained billions of years ago — including microbial life.

Looking At The Mars River Delta From A Distance

Panorama image of Mars' river delta

Photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS

In addition to the ‘bacon strip’ photo, NASA also shared a Perseverance shot of the river delta from a distance. The above shot consists of 64 different images showing the enormous length of the delta. You can see its various hills, rocky texture, and windswept sands — all just waiting for Perseverance to take a closer look at them.

While there’s no guarantee that NASA will find life in the river delta, it’s one of the best places for the Perseverance team to look. As explained by Thomas Zurbuchen from NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, “The delta at Jezero Crater promises to be a veritable geologic feast and one of the best locations on Mars to look for signs of past microscopic life. The answers are out there – and Team Perseverance is ready to find them.”

There are two possible routes for Perseverance to scale the river delta — including ‘Cape Nukshak’ and ‘Hawksbill Gap.’ Perseverance will use one of those paths to ascend the delta and perform various science observations on the trek up. Once it reaches the delta’s plateau, it’ll head back down the path it came and perform even more observations. From there, Perseverance is expected to go up the other path and do the same thing all over again. Each path is expected to take Perseverance about six Earth months, meaning it’ll be trekking up and down the river delta for at least the next year. It’s a long and tedious process, but if there were ever an area of Mars for Perseverance to find ancient life, this is it.