With the arrival of the UAE’s Hope orbiter and China’s Tianwen-1 orbiter-lander combination at Mars, all eyes are now on NASA’s $2.4 billion Perseverance rover, on course to land in Jezero crater on 18 February. The 45-kilometre-wide (28-mile-wide) Jezero features an ancient river channel cutting through the rim that once fanned out in a broad delta feeding a deep lake. Perseverance will land in Jezero to look for signs of past microbial life in the remnant lakebed deposits, the delta and the river channel. This artist’s impression shows what Jezero might have looked like more than 3 billion years ago when Mars was a much warmer, wetter world.
An artist’s impression of Jezero Crater in the distant past. Image: NASA/JPL
Jezero today: a false-colour image of the crater from Mars orbit shows the remnants of an ancient river channel, at left, that fanned out in a broad delta, center, to feed a now-vanished lake.