Emma DeSalle

School: Connelly School of the Holy Child, Potomac, MD

Teacher: Nally Carla

I think that NASA should send another probe to explore the amazing ice-covered moon of Saturn, Enceladus. In a previous mission, NASA sent the Cassini space probe to study this moon. The probe flew through the icy jets of water in Enceladus' southern pole and helped us learn more about the features of this moon. Another space probe sent to explore Enceladus would help scientists collect more data and better understand the liquid sea underneath the moon's frozen surface. Here on Earth, where we find water, we find life. Another mission to Enceladus would tell us whether there is life or was life there.

Enceladus has an icy crust. However, at the south pole there are jets of ice and water spraying out from the icebound surface. The Cassini mission found evidence of complex carbon molecules spraying out along with ice particles and water vapor. These molecules spray out because of hydrothermal activity at Enceladus' core.

Evidence also shows that there is a global ocean of liquid water underneath Enceladus' surface. Scientists studying this moon's orbit have determined that it has a tiny wobble as it orbits Saturn. The measure of this wobble is called "libration." Scientists think that if the icy surface was frozen solid to the moon's core, there wouldn't be as much of a wobble. Yet, since there is such great libration, the most likely explanation is that there is a great body of water surrounding the moon's rocky core. Scientists also believe that this hidden water source is affected by Saturn's gravity causing tidal forces. By tidal forces, we mean the pull of Saturn's gravity on the water that could be generating heat and keeping Enceladus' inner sea from freezing. This could also explain the plumes coming out of the moon's southern pole region.

We know that on Earth there is hydrothermal activity on the ocean floor. In some places, jets of hot water shoot out of the Earth's core. These hot water jets also have hydrocarbons in them. Even though these places do not receive sunlight and are under high pressure in otherwise cold places, scientists have found plenty of examples of undersea life around these vents. This is how a lifeform might be able to exist and survive on Enceladus. The lifeform might get energy from the heat and hydrocarbons from the hydrothermal vent.

I think that if NASA sends another space probe to Enceladus, it would help us understand the conditions there and determine whether Enceladus could sustain life!