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'McMurdo' Panorama from Spirit's 'Winter Haven'. Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell
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LifeSprings Mars is a new multinational sample return mission concept being led by Australia.

Based on Australian research and our unique geoheritage of the oldest most convincing evidence of life on Earth as preserved in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, the LifeSprings Mars mission is driven by the desire to investigate one of humanity’s greatest scientific questions – ‘Are we alone in the Universe?’

The primary aim of the mission is to retrieve samples of ancient hot spring deposits previously identified by NASA's Spirit Rover in the Columbia Hills of Gusev Crater, Mars, which have features identical to those formed in both modern and ancient Earth hot springs under the influence of microbial activity. Our research suggests that the Columbia Hills hot spring materials represent humanity’s best chance to search for extraterrestrial life.


The LifeSprings Mars team consists of Australian, NASA, European Space Agency, and Japanese and New Zealand scientists with expertise in Mars geology, the earliest life on Earth, hot springs, and the Origin of Life. Team member Steve Ruff was a scientist on the Spirit Rover team that discovered the Columbia Hills materials and collectively, we have helped guide NASA and the ESA in their search for life on Mars for over the past two decades.

Our team of engineers from Japan’s Space Agency, JAXA, with world-leading capabilities for sample return, have designed a novel, ‘light-and-nimble’, low-cost mission that will collect and return samples from Mars using only a single launch from Earth. Because we have already identified the samples we want to collect and know their exact location, and because any investigation for traces of life must be conducted with the most sophisticated analytical technology on Earth, the LifeSprings Mars mission does not require a large, costly, science-lab rover. Instead, we will employ a smaller, bespoke rover to retrieve samples for direct return to Earth, keeping costs low and maximising the chance for mission success.

The multilateral nature of the LifeSprings Mars mission team emphasises Australia’s commitment to Space for All and our international obligations under the Outer Space Treaty, Moon Agreement, and Artemis Accords. LifeSprings Mars focusses on sustainable, non-sovereign science and exploration to benefit all of humanity.

The LifeSprings Mars mission is a bold new endeavour for all of humanity. Come join us!


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