Experts at the Global Space Exploration Conference in St Petersburg give their take on whether there is life on Mars.

Is there life on the Red Planet? That burning question has spawned a raft of cutting-edge research. /VCG
Is there life on the Red Planet? That burning question has spawned a raft of cutting-edge research. /VCG
It’s one of the most popular questions related to space and the future of the human race – is there life on Mars?
This unresolved burning issue is also driving a raft of space exploration and cutting-edge research.
At the Global Space Exploration Conference in St Petersburg, Russia (GLEX 2021), we met some high-profile space scientists, astrophysicists and engineers debating the future of exploration.
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The conference covered a wide range of topics, including technical sessions on the Chinese Chang’e 5 robotic sample return mission on the lunar surface and the future of lunar infrastructures. 
The main challenges we heard are not only sending humans back to the moon, but also trying to do it in the safest way possible and to guarantee a successful mission to Mars, based on previous experiences
“The ambition now is, looking at the future, to move to Mars with a sample return mission, which is planned in this decade and is now finally going to happen in international cooperation,” says the President of the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) Pascale Ehrenfreund.
The Red Planet may have hosted life when its lakes weren’t frozen and new species could have emerged amid its changing conditions.
“I think that it is possible that we will find primitive life on Mars,” says Ehrenfreund. There are many missions that are developing instruments to find biolife on the Red Planet and hopefully we will be successful in the near future.”
She is not the only believer in extraterrestrial life.
“Sure thing, there are little green men – the odds are in favor of that. Unfortunately it is quite difficult to meet in this vast space,” says space engineer Eleonora Zeminiani, who works at Thales Alenia Space Italia’s Human Exploration New Initiative.
And Yaroslav Menshenin, research scientist at Skoltech, concurs: “I think once humans will be able to go to other planets, there will definitely be life on Mars!”
Menshenin also shared with us his experience as a “space educator” on Friday.
Interview: Stephen Cole & Francesca Della Penna
Video Editor: Pedro Duarte