Nelly Dimitrova

Year: 2018-19

Nelly Dimitrova

School: Language School "Acad. Stoyanov"

City: Blagoevgrad

Grade: 10

Target: Enceladus

"A space probe lands on a moon of a gas giant, brings the probes to Earth… and as a result a terrible kind of alien flu causes a pandemic and neither cure nor an immunization is to find. This sounds like a good sci-fi film scenario. However, what is the best place for this scene? If we want to find unicellular aliens, where shall we look for them?

In my opinion, the possibility for life is highest on the moon of Saturn Enceladus. It is certain that under its ice surface there is a liquid salted organic compound which contains ocean; therefore, the conditions are good for microbes. If there are some, this will be a revolutionary discovery, thus I will definitely send a space probe there.

Enceladus is not the only moon in the Solar System where we can see organic compounds. The moon of Saturn Titan, explored by the ship Cassini-Huygens, is full of them. On its surface, there are liquid lakes and oceans of hydrocarbons. So why not send a spaceship there? The truth is we do not have any idea about what an alien that is very different from us will need. Hence, we will be searching for an Earth-like life in conditions close the Earth’s present or past ones. Consequently, let us think about Titan once again: oceans, clouds, and rain of carbon-hydrogens and freezing temperature on the surface…it does not sound like the best place for an Earth-like life. If we want to catch a space flu, we should be looking for a place with warm water and organic compounds.

Under the ice surface of Enceladus and Europe there is a liquid ocean. The space probe “Galileo” has detected changes of the magnetosphere of Europa, which are thought to be plumes and the objects found by Cassini-Huygens on Enceladus are certainly plumes. On both moons, the surface is extremely cold but these plumes are signs for geothermal activity in the ocean, which means that the temperature on the bottom must be suitable for life.

I would choose to send a mission to Enceladusbecause its plumes are proved to contain organic compounds while those of Europa have still not been proved. Another problem is that Europa is too close to Jupiter’s radiated field.

In fact, why shall we send a mission exactly where the possibility is the highest? The life on Enceladus, if it exists, cannot be very developed. This would be some kind of bacteria. Do we really want to catch a space flu? Although we cannot expect an alien civilization on Enceladus, even some bacteria will be a revolutionary discovery, which will show that our planet is not the only place in the Solar System that contains life.

In conclusion, if we send a spaceship to Enceladus and find microbes there, we do not really need to bring this life here, do we? We have enough of viruses on the Earth.

Even so, would it not be intriguing to find them?"

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