Private mission may get us back to Enceladus sooner than NASA

Russian billionaire Yuri Milner is considering privately funding a mission to Enceladus, one of the prime places to search for life in our solar system

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RUSSIAN billionaire Yuri Milner has set his sights on Saturn’s moon Enceladus.

Milner founded the $100 million Breakthrough Starshot project, an attempt to send small probes to Alpha Centauri. Now, he has announced plans to explore funding a mission to Enceladus.

The icy moon is thought to be a prime location in the search for alien life thanks to the global ocean under its surface. Geysers spray its water into space, making it easier to sample for signs of life.

In 2015, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft found molecular hydrogen in the plumes – a sign that there may be hydrothermal vents in Enceladus’s ocean. On Earth, microorganisms clus ter around such vents.

“Can we design a low-cost, privately funded mission to Enceladus which can be launched relatively soon, and that can look more thoroughly at those plumes, try to see what’s going on there?” Milner asked the New Space Age conference in Seattle this week.

He says the mission would be a precursor to a costlier NASA mission that would take longer to get off the ground. NASA wouldn’t reach Enceladus for at least another decade even if it is selected as a future target.

This article appeared in print under the headline “Enceladus mission”

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