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Astrobiological Studies of the Icy Satellites

R. Mark Elowitz

November 19, 2012

For many years the planet Mars have received significant funding over other planetary science goals. The time is finally come to carry on with exploring the three worlds that have a better chance of hosting extremophilic life beneath their crusts; Europa, Enceladus, and Titan. From Enceledus' icy plumes containing organic compounds, to the probable sub-surface oceans of Enceladus and Europa, it is time to land surface laboratories on these three worlds to conduct an in-depth scientific exploration. Do the hydrocarbon lakes of Titan contain life as we don't know it, life that my utilize ethane as a metabolic energy source? Does the subsurface ocean of Europa contain hydrothermal vents. What is the chemical composition of Europa's brown-reddish ice? What is the source of the heat source in Enceladus' interior? Do the plumes contain more than just organic compounds, perhaps extremophilic organisms are ejected along with the ice and organics? A plume sample return mission should be conducted.

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