BEACON TRANSCRIPT – One of Saturn’s icy moons, Enceladus, is going to be explored by NASA. The Space Agency wants to send probes to the moon’s surface. They’re going to take samples of the surface, dig tunnels and explore Enceladus in depth. There are even debates over alien life. NASA has already previously said that there is a slight chance of finding some sort of alien life in space, in the form of bacteria, not necessarily as evolved as life on Earth is.
Cassini will give the baton to other robots to further explore Saturn’s surroundings. For now, Cassini continues to orbit Saturn, and it’s going to take a deadly plummet into Saturn, next year.
The scientific community gathered in Colorado last week, to come up with possible successors to Cassini.
Enceladus is thought to have a deep ocean surrounding its frozen surface and geysers that spout water into space. The frozen particles reach one of Saturn’s rings and provide an insight of what type of composition the water from Enceladus’ ocean has. Cassini cannot test the water, as it hasn’t got the necessary tools. When it was built, nobody knew about the geysers on Enceladus.
Alexis Bouquet, Ph.D. student at the Southwest Research Institute in Texas, gives the example above to support the idea that it’s hard to create space mission plans because there’s always something unpredictable that can happen and scientists don’t always know a lot about the object they’re going to explore.
As Cassini flew by Enceladus in the past eleven years, it was covered in hydrogen molecules. This led astronomers to believe that there are in fact geysers on the surface of Enceladus to be explored. These vents could mean that there is life beneath the icy crust.
It’s hard to tell whether water really exists somewhere on Enceladus or if the hydrogen molecules came from chemical reactions which normally happen between Cassini’s instruments which react to ice pieces smashing into Cassini.
A future mission would have to use different materials, to catch the water before it hits the delicate instruments on the spacecraft.
Experts will have to overcome other problems too, such as the hard impact between the robot explorer and the thick layer of ice on Enceladus. A prototype named IceMole could be able to melt the ice and dig through it, reaching a few hundred meters beneath the icy surface.
Image Source – Wikipedia