The 2015 discovery of water on Mars, an essential for life on Earth, sparked theories of thriving Martian life. Ideas of interstellar travel to find extracellular beings were suddenly within reach. The second Montreal Space Symposium on Oct. 18 to 19, offered a forum for the future of space exploration, where speakers shared their passion for the next frontier.

Surface formations on Mars indicate that water may have swept up sediment and debris, before being flushed underground and sequestered away for billions of years in lava-formed rock passages. These Martian lava tubes now serve as stores for icy water and would provide a protective environment to microbes that may may exist within the rocks. These possible alien microbes would explain the persistent traces of methane in Mars’ atmosphere.

The Martian subsurface matches Earth’s own, where a thin film of water lies in lava tubes between ice and rock. Despite this harsh environment, Earth’s microorganisms thrive in large populations in lava tubes at oxygen concentrations very similar to those on Mars. They have adapted to using iron or other inorganic compounds as sources of energy.

“What this tends to indicate to us is that there could be a broad range of metabolisms as well as survival strategies,” Brady O’Connor, a Master’s student in the Department of Natural Resource Sciences, said in an interview with The McGill Tribune. “From a habitability standpoint and an astrobiology standpoint, this is encouraging.’’

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