NASA and ESA visit the Pilbara with the LifeSpringsMars team
In June 2023, LifeSpringsMars Program Director Prof. Martin Van Kranendonk led members from NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, the European Space Agency, the Australian Space Agency, and CSIRO on a field expedition to the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Here, in the remote Australian outback, Martin showed the participants a series of ancient stromatolite fossils that are 2.7 to 3.5 billion years old. The most ancient of these fossils are considered the oldest, most convincing evidence of life on Earth, and studying them is helping planetary scientists understand what to look for and where in the search for life on Mars.
During the week-long expedition, the international delegation discussed how they could overcome the challenges of locating and analysing possible fossilised evidence for life on Mars, using what they learnt from studying the stromatolite fossils of the Pilbara.
This international astrobiology expedition is a testament to the global importance of understanding and learning from the Pilbara's unique geoheritage and sets the stage for collaboration on future Mars rover missions.