Summary: NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has picked up traces of hydrogen plumes on the surface of one of Saturn’s moon Enceladus, indicating chemical reactions between warm water and rocks on the floor of a liquid ocean. This could potentially indicated the presence of life, but not as we know it. It took Cassini 20 years to reach Enceladus and make his discovery, and now it will continue to drift past Saturn until it is eventually destroyed in Saturn’s rings in September of this year.
Connection: This article is based on a lot of the same ideas we discussed during Eric Collins’ lecture about Astrobiology.
Critical Analysis: The possibility of life existing on other planets is very high, but there is a lot of question about whether or not we would be able to identify that life as life as we know it. Life not as we know it would be much harder to identify simply because of that fact that we would not be as able to easily identify it as “life”. There was an extremely high cost associated with this discovery and the amazing piece of technology used to make this discovery will now just be destroyed in space having completed its purpose.
Question: What is life not as we know it? What is a good definition of life? How can we expand out definition of life to accommodate lifestyles that we have not yet seen? Will we ever be able to find other lifeforms and classify them as being alive if we don’t yet understand what other forms of life might be? Is the cost of advanced piece of machinery and spacecrafts worth the results?