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3/15/2017 by mdc
Dom Galeon and Abby Norman opine that where there is water, life abounds, at least, that has been the experience here on Earth. As such, many planetary probes have been designed to look for the presence of water, or signs of it. In our solar system, there are celestial bodies that have been found to contain great amounts of water. These so-called ocean worlds include Jupiter moons.... Europa and Ganymede, and the Saturn moon Enceladus.

Now, NASA has just made its plans to explore deeper into these ocean worlds official. NASA hosted the Planetary Science Vision 2050 Workshop, where proposals for exploring these ocean worlds were presented. Kevin Peter Hand, Deputy Chief Scientist for solar system exploration at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, shared the findings of a report prepared by the 2016 Europa Lander Science Definition Team.

According to Hand, the purpose of exploring Europa oceans is threefold. First, it would search for biosignatures and signs of life by analyzing the surface and sub-surface materials of Europa. Then, it would involve in-situ analyses to determine the composition of non-ice, near-subsurface material. Lastly, it would be important to characterize Europa surface and subsurface properties, as well as the dynamic processes that shape them, all of which would be in support of further explorations.

The second presentation, by the Roadmaps to Ocean Worlds team, took a more general approach. They classified ocean worlds as bodies with a current liquid ocean (not necessarily global). All bodies in our solar system that plausibly can have or are known to have an ocean will be considered as part of this document.

By this definition, the report included a number of possible targets for exploration ... the aforementioned Europa, Ganymede, Callisto, Enceladus, as well as Triton, Pluto, Ceres, and Dione. They also mentioned Saturn moon Titan.

Read on ...

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