Proposed space mission aims to retrieve samples from Saturn moon in search for life

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Sep 24, 2015, 11:26 AM EDT

A proposed space mission aims to retrieve samples from Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus, in hopes of finding signs of life at another destination within our solar system.

The mission, dubbed Life Investigation for Enceladus (LIFE), is currently just in the proposal stage at this point. But there’s a contingent that believes this could be one of the most promising missions not already on the docket. The reason? The moon includes approximately 100 powerful geysers that blast water from a subsurface ocean out of the south polar region and into space. 

That means a satellite mission to the rock likely wouldn’t even require a lander or any additional gear to drill or collect samples. Instead, they should just be floating around in orbit waiting for a satellite to pick them up. After picking up samples, the plan calls for the craft to shoot the particles back to Earth in a return capsule for additional study. The geysers were spotted by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft in 2005, during an orbit around Saturn.

The mission is projected to cost approximately $700 million, which admittedly sounds like a high price tag, though it’s still 30 percent less than NASA’s Curiosity mission.

Assuming they can ever get it off the ground, the mission would take approximately 12-15 years to complete. The trip to reach Enceladus would take 5-8 year alone, depending on the approach tactic. 

Do you think Saturn’s moon could hold the answer?


(Via Space)