Enceladus is Saturn’s sixth largest moon and has the most potential inside our solar system to be a breeding ground for organic life. Roughly six years ago, water was discovered on the moon and has since been seen shooting into space from geysers on the body’s frozen surface. And, as we know, water could mean life.
With that in mind, NASA will be landing a drill on Enceladus’ surface to start digging for scientific gold. According to Space.com, the plan is to land the modestly sized drill, only 6” by 6” by 47” tall, a safe distance from one of the geysers, referred to in awesome fashion as “cryovolcanos,” and start digging in an attempt to reach liquid water 100-200 meters below the surface. Drilling and melting at about one meter per hour, IceMole will only take about a week or two to reach its depth and begin collecting samples.
Previous missions made by the NASA Cassini spacecraft detected organic compounds in the geysers it passed through, prompting what is being called Endeladus Explorer, or simply EnEx. The minds behind EnEx at the German Aerospace Center have planned tests of IceMole here on our own ice caps in both Alaska and the Antarctic for 2013, and if those are successful the next stop will be on Mars, where the probe will drill through its ice caps before getting the final go-ahead to head for Enceladus within the next five years. Unfortunately, that’s the usual schedule when space travel is involved. Nothing is overnight.
Finding organic lifeforms on an extraterrestrial body would be huge if for no other reason than for shutting people up who think we’re the only living creatures in our infinitely expanding universe. Of course the possibilities will go far beyond being a smug douche; the implications are farther reaching than we can imagine. Possible medical advances could come from this, mysteries of our own solar system could be unlocked, and, most excitingly, there could be a gigantic space monster living in the depths that we could unlock from his icy prison. A real life SyFy original movie.
More on this as the story slowly develops.