NASA plunges into the search for life

NASA plunges into the search for life

Jets of ice, water vapor and organic compounds are ejected from the south pole of Enceladus in a photograph taken by the Cassini spacecraft in 2009

Near Hawaii and at a depth of 3,000 feet are warm, bubbling volcanic springs. This place can be a great workout for finding extraterrestrial life. It is here that NASA connects space and ocean research in the SUBSEA project. The knowledge gained in both areas will allow the development of future space missions within the solar system.

It is believed that Saturn’s satellite Enceladus and Europa at Jupiter have liquid oceans and hydrothermal activity under ice layers. Therefore, on Earth looking for similar places that can be explored. SUBSEA's goal is to view volcanic sources beneath a Hawaiian island.

When the NASA Cassini mission discovered that there was water under Enceladus’s ice crust, they began to scrutinize. The characteristics of the plume indicate conditions that may be present on the seabed. This includes temperature, pressure, composition, and the estimated presence of hydrothermal activity. Researchers believe that these satellites are great places to search for potential life. Water in contact with the rocks at the bottom can lead to chemical reactions and microbial metabolism.

NASA plunges into the search for life

Artistic vision of the inner cross section of Enceladus bark. It demonstrates how hydrothermal activity can cause jets on the lunar surface.

The Loihi submarine volcano is a particularly good place to test forecasts of hydrothermal seabed systems and their ability to sustain life. Early research focused on locations where tectonic plates came together. But Loihi includes molten magma, erupting from the middle of one of the plates. This type of volcanic activity may resemble the seabed on Europe or Enceladus.

In 2018, the mission of the mission SUBSEA uses the ship Nautilus to study the conditions at Loihi. The information obtained will improve our understanding of the potential of conditions capable of supporting life forms in other oceanic worlds.

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