Is there life beneath the surface of Enceladus ? Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Professor Ed Stone, who at 83 is still working on a variety of space projects, is certainly no stranger to exploring the solar system having served as project scientist for NASA’s Voyager program which launched two of the most audacious space missions ever undertaken.
As things stand, both Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 have traveled further from the Earth than any other man-made object in history and remain fully operational despite 40 years of traveling through space.
Their original mission to visit the four gas giants was made possible by a rare planetary configuration that happens only once every 175 years – an opportunity that NASA couldn’t afford to miss.
Of all the worlds that the Voyager probes visited during their travels however, it is Saturn’s moon Enceladus that Prof Stone believes is the most promising place to look for signs of alien life.
“We really need to get back and look at that moon,” he said. “We know there’s water ice evaporating – geysering – from its south pole. It’s snowing all the time. That means there’s liquid water beneath the icy crust. Here on Earth, wherever there’s water there’s microbial life.”
One option would be to collect samples of this water and analyze them for evidence of life.
“There are people thinking through how to fly through the geysers,” said Stone. “I think it would be best to fly through the geysers and bring back samples to Earth to see if there were microbes there.”
“Microbes are the most likely things for us to find. We’d want to look at that to see if microbes are related to those here on Earth or distinctly different.”
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Source: The Guardian
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