A Snake Robot on a Mission to Find Extraterrestrial Life on Saturn’s Moon
NASA’s latest project, the Exobiology Extant Life Surveyor (EELS), is set to explore Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons. Designed to navigate a variety of terrains, EELS is a snake-like robot that will traverse deep crevasses and underground oceans. Enceladus is of particular interest to astrobiologists because it has a warm ocean just below its icy surface, making it one of the Solar System’s most exciting prospects for finding extraterrestrial life.
EELS is set to impress the world with its cutting-edge science. In its prototype phase, EELS is designed to be adaptable to different environments and able to traverse ocean-inspired terrain, fluids, labyrinthian environments, and liquids. Its self-propelled design will allow it to move on its own accord.
Enceladus’ water world is what makes it a possible haven for life, with data from the Cassini mission showing that the moon is covered in liquid water just beneath the surface. Enceladus spews water through cracks in its crust, creating huge plumes forming one of Saturn’s rings. These plumes contain silica nanograins, which are only created in environments where liquid water and rock interact at temperatures above 90 degrees Celsius. This suggests the presence of hydrothermal vents deep beneath Enceladus’ icy shell, similar to those found on the ocean floor of Earth.
— Engadget (@engadget) May 9, 2015
EELS is the perfect candidate to explore Enceladus’ underground oceans, given its ability to slither into vents and swim through the oceans. It’s a unique design that may also prove useful for other applications, such as exploring Martian polar caps and crevasses in ice sheets on Earth.
The big question is whether EELS will find evidence of life on Enceladus. Although there is a lot of talk about finding life on Mars and Venus, Enceladus remains one of the best chances for finding life within our Solar System. EELS is designed to assess the habitability of the environment and search for signs of life. Who knows, EELS, the snake-like robot, may finally unveil the age-old question: is someone out there?