From Saturn Moon Enceladus Eyed for Sample-Return Mission at Space.com:
SAN FRANCISCO — Scientists are developing a mission concept that would snag icy particles from Saturn’s moon Enceladus and return them to Earth, where they could be analyzed for signs of life.
The spacecraft would fly through the icy plume blasted into space by geysers near Enceladus’ south pole, then send the collected particles back to our planet in a return capsule. Enceladus may be capable of supporting life, and the flyby sample-return mission would bring pieces from its depths to Earth at a reasonable price, researchers said.
“This is really the low-hanging fruit” of sample-return missions, said study leader Peter Tsou of Sample Exploration Systems in La Canada, Calif., who presented the idea here Wednesday (Dec. 5) at the annual fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union. “It would be a shame not to pick it.”
If the mission is approved, it could probably be ready to launch by 2020, Tsou added. Samples from Enceladus’ plume would make it to Earth about 14 years later.
Enceladus is a great candidate for sample-return, Tsou said. Its geyser-blasted particles are fresh, having come right out of the moon’s subsurface ocean. The mission can be done without landing on and re-launching from another world, two costly and complicating extra steps. And Enceladus seems to have all the ingredients necessary to support life.
“That doesn’t mean life is there,” Tsou said. “But we want to find out.”
Well, dang, doc, I want to find out, too!
I mean, just think… !
Enceladus is an awesome place. Seriously, I have always had a gut feeling that there are critters there.
Too bad it will be so far off, man, seven long years… but
It would be awesome if a base could be established, robotic, no doubt, that would bore through the ice to the ocean below… and have streaming video. Should be able to sort out the streaming part by then, eh?
There’s a strange old post here from October ‘09 called The Critters Of Enceladus,
Ha! That was a fun one.
Here’s a pic…
Yes, indeed, Enceladus is a fine place to get real and tangible material to study.
P.S. This was a draft from way back in January… sigh.