NASA will learn to search for life on the ocean floor

Near the coast of the Big island of Hawaii at a depth of 1000 meters beneath the ocean surface bubble warm volcanic waters. It’s a deep place can tell a lot about how and where to look for extraterrestrial life. Therefore, NASA and its partners mix of ocean and space research in the framework of the project SUBSEA. The lessons learned from this project will be mutually beneficial for both areas and will help in the development of future scientific missions throughout the Solar system.

Saturn’s moon Enceladus and Jupiter’s satellite Europa is almost certainly hiding liquid oceans and hydrothermal activity beneath their icy crusts. Places like this on Earth called analog environment. The purpose SUBSEA — sources that come from a volcano, forming a new Hawaiian island — seamount Loihi. For the project it will be similar to the ocean worlds of our Solar system.

When the Cassini mission to Saturn has discovered plumes of water erupt from under the ice surface Encalada, the characteristics of this plume have allowed scientists to understand what might be the conditions on the seabed. Among them temperature, pressure and composition, and possible hydrothermal activity. Scientists believe that these moons good places to look for potential life, because the water interacting with the rocks on the seabed, can produce chemical reaction, providing a microbial metabolism.

Loihi is an especially good place to test predictions of hydrothermal systems on the seafloor and their ability to support life. Previous studies have focused more on the places where tectonic plates come together, but in the case of mountain Loihi from the center of one of the plates flows of molten magma. This type of volcanic activity, which, according to scientists, can meet Europe and Enceladus.

During the expedition, SUBSEA, which runs the entire 2018 on Board the Nautilus, scientists, NASA, the National oceanic and atmospheric administration and various educational institutions will study conditions for the existence of life within the marine sources of Loihi. Obtained in the course of the mission knowledge will deepen our understanding of the range of conditions that could exist life forms on other planets.

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