Washington, June 17 : Scientists will take the help of single person submersibles to retrieve samples from a lake (Pavillion) in northern British Columbia that may hold vital clues to the history of life on Earth and on other planets.
Pavilion Lake is located about 500 kilometres north of Vancouver in Marble Canyon Provincial Park.
It was formed by a glacier more than 10,000 years ago, and has for the last decade been the site of several studies into astrobiology.
According to Greg Slater, an environmental geochemist in the Faculty of Science, the objects of scientific interest are unique carbonate rock structures, known as microbialites because they are covered with microbes.
Some of these microbialites grow at depths up to 180 feet below the water's surface, too deep to reach by non-decompression Scuba diving.
By studying these microbialites, scientists want to know that are they the result of biological or geological processes, and, why are there different microbes living on them and how long have these microbial communities been preserved.
"It's going to help us develop a baseline of understanding about life on our planet," said Slater.
"As amazing as it sounds, the bottom of a lake can answer lots of questions about life on Earth. And how we explore this Lake will lay the groundwork for how we will explore Mars," he added.
The mission is significant for astronauts as they are interested in the similarities between field scientific activities in the submersible and using a lunar rover for geological research in future missions sending astronauts back to the Moon.
According to astronaut Dave Williams, "What's new about the work at Pavilion Lake this summer is the use of advanced underwater exploration technology to enable investigators to study previously inaccessible specimens."
"Now we're able to use Rover-type subs with robotic arms similar to what is envisioned for exploring the lunar surface," he said.