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Strategic Map for Exploring the Ocean-World EnceladusAmong the many "ocean worlds" of our solar system, Enceladus appears unique in its combination of astrobiologically relevant, exploration-worthy attributes: extensive liquid-water ocean with high-temperature hydrothermal activity, containing salts and organics expressed predictably into space. The Enceladus south polar plume allows direct access to telltale molecules, ions, isotopes, and potential cytofragments in space. Plume mass spectroscopy and sample return, in situ investigation of surface fallback deposits, direct vent exploration, and eventually oceanographic exploration can all be envisioned. However, building consensus to fund such ambitious exploration hinges on acquiring key new data. A roadmap is essential. It could start with cost-capped onramps: 1) flythrough analysis of the plume, following up on Cassini measurements with modern instruments; 2) sample return of plume material for analysis on Earth. A methodical mission sequence in which each step depends on emergent results from prior missions would push in situ oceanographic exploration into the second half of this century. Even for this scenario, prioritization by the next planetary Decadal Survey would be pivotal.
Document ID
20170008269
Document Type
Conference Paper
External Source(s)
Authors
Sherwood, Brent (Jet Propulsion Lab., California Inst. of Tech. Pasadena, CA, United States)
Date Acquired
September 1, 2017
Publication Date
October 12, 2015
Subject Category
Space Sciences (General)
Meeting Information
IAF International Astronautical Congress(Jerusalem)
Distribution Limits
Public
Copyright
Other
Keywords
Cassini
roadmap
Saturn
LIFE
moon
ELF
astrobiology
decadal study
plume
sample return