Scientists tackle the question of what kinds of life might reside now on the Red Planet, and how we might find it.
Last week NASA convened a visionary meeting in New Mexico to consider a topic critical to astrobiology—whether life currently exists on Mars, and if so, how to detect it. The site of the conference was near the world-renowned Carlsbad Caverns, which attendees got to visit during a mid-conference workshop.
Caves, along with ice and salt deposits, are likely places to search for possible near-surface life on Mars, and Diana Northup from the University of New Mexico provided an overview of the many diverse shapes and forms microbes can take in caves. She suggested looking for similar mineral deposits on Mars. In another talk, Brady O’Connor [NRS PhD candidate with Professor Lyle Whyte] from McGill University in Montreal reported on cold-adapted and metabolically active microbial communities found within ice in lava tube caves on Earth—again with intriguing implications for similar structures on Mars.