Lengthy earlier than NASA’s Perseverance rover touched down on the Purple Planet on Feb. 18, one in all its highest-level mission targets was already established: to hunt out indicators of historical life on the Martian floor. In actual fact, the methods utilized by one of many science instruments aboard the rover may have purposes on Saturn’s moons Enceladus and Titan as effectively Jupiter’s moon Europa.
“Perseverance goes to search for a purchasing checklist of minerals, organics, and different chemical compounds which will reveal microbial life as soon as thrived on Mars,” stated Luther Beegle, principal investigator for Mars 2020’s Scanning Liveable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemical compounds (SHERLOC) instrument. “However the know-how behind SHERLOC that can search for previous life in Martian rocks is very adaptive and may also be used to hunt out dwelling microbes and the chemical constructing blocks for all times within the deep ice of the moons of Saturn and Jupiter.”
Enceladus, Europa, and even the hazy moon Titan are thought to cover huge oceans of liquid water containing chemical compounds related to organic processes under their thick icy exteriors – very completely different environments from fashionable Mars. If microbial life exists in these waters, scientists could possibly discover proof of it within the ice as effectively. However the right way to discover that proof if it’s locked deep within the ice?
Enter WATSON. Quick for Wireline Evaluation Device for the Subsurface Statement of Northern ice sheets, the three.9-foot-long (1.2-meter-long) lengthy tube-like prototype is present process improvement at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. It has been coupled to Honeybee Robotics’ Planetary Deep Drill, and this mixture was efficiently examined within the excessive chilly of Greenland’s ice.
A smaller model of WATSON may in the future journey aboard a future robotic mission to discover the habitability potential of one in all these enigmatic moons. The instrument would scan into the ice in the hunt for biosignatures – natural molecules created by organic processes. Ought to it spot any, a future model of WATSON, with the extra functionality of gathering ice from the borehole wall, may then collect samples for additional research.