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Enceladus as a potential oasis for life: Science goals and investigations for future explorations

Gaël Choblet 1, * Gabriel Tobie 1 Arnaud Buch 2 Ondrej Čadek 3 Laura Barge 4 Marie Bēhounková 3 Eloi Camprubi 5 Caroline Freissinet 6 Matt Hedman 7 Geraint Jones 8 Valery Lainey 9 Alice Le Gall 6 Alice Lucchetti 10 Shannon Mackenzie 11 Giuseppe Mitri 12, 13 Marc Neveu 14 Francis Nimmo 15 Karen Olsson-Francis 16 Mark Panning 4 Frank Postberg 17 Joachim Saur 18 Jürgen Schmidt 19 Yasuhito Sekine 20 Takazo Shibuya 21 Christophe Sotin 4 Ondrej Soucek 3 Cyril Szopa 6 Tomohiro Usui 22 Steven Vance 4 Tim van Hoolst 23
Abstract : Enceladus is the first planetary object for which direct sampling of a subsurface water reservoir, likely habitable, has been performed. Over a decade of flybys and seven flythroughs of its watery plume, the Cassini spacecraft determined that Enceladus possesses all the ingredients for life. The existence of active eruptions blasting fresh water into space, makes Enceladus the easiest target in the search for life elsewhere in the Solar System. Flying again through the plume with more advanced instruments, landing at the surface near active sources and collecting a sample for return to Earth are the natural next steps for assessing whether life emerges in this active world. Characterizing this habitable world also requires detailed mapping and monitoring of its tidally-induced activity, from the orbit as well as from the surface using complementary platforms. Such ambitious goals may be achieved in the future in the framework of ESA large or medium-class missions in partnership with other international agencies, in the same spirit of the successful Cassini-Huygens mission. For all these reasons, exploring habitable ocean worlds, with Enceladus as a primary target, should be a priority topic of the ESA Voyage 2050 programme.
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Submitted on : Monday, November 15, 2021 - 11:25:52 AM
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Gaël Choblet, Gabriel Tobie, Arnaud Buch, Ondrej Čadek, Laura Barge, et al.. Enceladus as a potential oasis for life: Science goals and investigations for future explorations. Experimental Astronomy, Springer Link, 2021, (in press). ⟨10.1007/s10686-021-09808-7⟩. ⟨insu-03426143⟩



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