Saturn’s Moon proposed for sample return mission.
Saturn’s moon Enceladus was discovered by the Cassini spacecraft to have water-rich plumes venting into space, during a fly-by in 2005. These cryovolcanoes are so large they vent large amounts of material into space, and are thought to have formed at least one of Saturn’s rings. The plumes are thought to originate from a sub-surface body of water on Enceladus, and have a unique chemistry which some suspect could be a likely candidate for harboring life.
The idea to fly-by and pick up a sample to return to Earth was proposed to the American Geophysical Union this week, described by the study author as being the “low-hanging fruit” of sample return missions. “It would be a shame not to pick it”.
Enceladus is one of only four known bodies in the Solar System to have active volcanoes.
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.