The question looms large, not only for Mars, but for other worlds in the Solar System: As we look for evidence of extraterrestrial life, is it better to do the science investigations in situ— onsite—or to bring samples back to Earth for study?
There are currently two competing mission designs for Enceladus. Jonathan Lunine of Cornell University made the case at this week’s meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco for an orbiter that would fly through the plume and analyze its constituents. Called ELF (Enceladus Life Finder), the spacecraft would include more sophisticated instrumentation than the Cassini orbiter that is currently investigating Saturn’s moons. ELF would be much better suited to detecting the building blocks of life and to assessing environmental conditions in the liquid water reservoir underneath the icy surface of Enceladus.To read more, click here.