Mars, Mars 2020 mission and Perseverance rover

Lake in Turkey to help NASA find life on Mars

For the Mars 2020 mission, in which Perseverance searches for life in Mars, NASA looked at Lake Salda in Turkey, similar to the Jezero crater.

A lake in Turkey with crystalline waters and white sands formed in an ancient volcanic crater could hide the key to help NASA’s Mars 2020 mission and the Perseverance rover – which successfully landed on the surface of the red planet on February 18 – to find traces of life on Mars.

The Perseverance rover managed to land successfully on the Martian surface yesterday for a crucial mission that will determine if there ever was life on Mars and, of course, if it still exists today in microbial form; to do this, the robot landed in the Jezero crater, which is believed to have formed an ancient delta and a lake about 250 meters deep billions of years ago, when the planet’s conditions allowed the presence of liquid water.

NASA scientists believe that sediments accumulated over millions of years in the delta and the lake bed could harbour biological evidence or even fossils of possible forms of microbial life, which is why the Perseverance – the largest and most advanced robot never sent to Mars – will collect those samples and send them back to Earth later, something that is not expected until the year 2031.

In 2020, Lake Salda caught the attention of NASA

In its mission, the Perseverance has nevertheless counted on an important help; in 2020 the similarities between the Jezero crater on Mars and Lake Salda in Turkey captured the attention of NASA scientists, due to the geological and chemical similarities that both have.

Turkey's Lake Salda and Mars' Jezero Crater

So much so that exobiologists from the US space agency believe that some minerals detected in the Martian crater are very similar to sediments in Lake Salda formed from the accumulation of algae; in this way, if the NASA mission detects sediments of similar composition in the Jezero, it could conclude that its biological origin comes from microbial life, such as microscopic algae, that could once exist on Mars.

In this regard, Turkey’s Minister of Environment, Murat Kurum, recalled yesterday via Twitter the importance that this Turkish lake has had for the Mars 2020 mission. “Like NASA, we are eager to know the results of the study in the Jezero crater” Kurum assured, just after NASA said in another tweet “No one has set foot in this crater, but we have some idea about what to expect thanks to Lake Salda in Turkey.”

In addition to its importance to NASA and to help find life on Mars, this crater lake in Burdur province is rightly called the “Maldives of Turkey” for its crystal clear turquoise waters and white sand beaches, which make it one of the most beautiful lakes in the world and a popular tourist destination in Turkey.