In 2005, NASA’s Cassini probe found evidence of water jets entering Encelado, and photos clearly show that they originated from the satellite’s south pole region. Subsequent research has led to the hypothesis that these clouds originated from the surface ocean beneath the ice sheet. Which can accommodate ideal conditions for life.
It is not possible to look for the tools available in Cassini ‘s own life in the scattered clouds, so Richard Mathews of the University of California, Berkeley conducted experiments with the team to see if future missions could do it. Using a gas rifle, the team simulated how to fly a probe through the flow of ice particles to take samples of their objects, launching them into a sheet of metal at speeds of several kilometers per second.
The experiment showed that even at speeds of up to 3 km / s, such life-proof evidence of amino acids or sugars could be obtained and sufficient information could be gathered to test the probe itself. “Organic molecules are resistant to collisions,” says Mathis.
An orbit around Saturn travels at 3 km per hour through Enceladia. It will rotate more slowly around the satellite – 200 m / s – which will simplify the sample.
No mission to Enceladus has been planned yet, but Mathis and his team hope their investigation will lead to its planning. “Encelad gives us a great opportunity because it gives us samples automatically,” he says.
Prone to fits of apathy. Unable to type with boxing gloves on. Internet advocate. Avid travel enthusiast. Entrepreneur. Music expert.