Hunting for Life on Mars by Studying Life on Earth

Macey, Michael; Grand, Ann; Fox-Powell, Mark; Ramkissoon, Nisha; Cousins, Claire and Olsson-Francis, Karen (2021). Hunting for Life on Mars by Studying Life on Earth. Frontiers for Young Minds, 9, article no. 665929.



Modern-day Mars is a dry, harsh environment with no surface water, but billions of years ago it might have been water-rich, like Earth. Scientists believe that, as water was lost on Mars, the remaining water would have become increasingly salty and rich in sulphur. By researching environments on Earth with a similar chemistry, we can develop hypotheses about whether life could have existed on Mars. In our research, we studied Colour Peak, a sulphur-rich, salty spring system in the Canadian High Arctic. This environment contains bacteria that use sulphur to get their energy. By studying water and sediment samples from this region, we confirmed that bacteria that used sulphur as an energy source could potentially have lived on Mars. These results can help scientists who are analysing data from Mars missions to identify evidence of former life on Mars.

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