Nasa develops sea-based mission to support deep space exploration


NASA, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and various academic institutions have been studying the springs erupting from a volcano forming the next Hawaiian island called Lō`ihi seamount.

The project, known as Systematic Underwater Biogeochemical Science and Exploration Analog (SUBSEA), will help scientists to develop future deep-space exploration missions searching for extraterrestrial life.

According to NASA, the Lō`ihi, situated more than 3,000ft under the ocean surface off the coast of Hawaii’s Big Island, is a good place to test predictions about seafloor hydrothermal systems and their ability to support life.

Formation of the Lō`ihi could be similar to seafloor volcanoes that may exist on Jupiter and Saturn’s moons Europa and Enceladus, respectively.

“Scientists think these moons are good places to look for potential life, because water interacting with rock on their sea floors could yield chemical reactions that would make microbial metabolism possible.”

Scientists believe that Enceladus and Europa have liquid oceans and hydrothermal activity under icy crusts, which possess analogue environments of Lō`ihi.

Analogue environments are locations on Earth that are similar to deep-space destinations.

NASA said in a statement: “When NASA’s Cassini mission to Saturn discovered a plume of water erupting from beneath the icy surface of Enceladus, the characteristics of the plume told scientists what conditions might be like on the sea floor.

“This included the temperature, pressure and composition, and suggested the presence of hydrothermal activity.

“Scientists think these moons are good places to look for potential life, because water interacting with rock on their sea floors could yield chemical reactions that would make microbial metabolism possible.”

The SUBSEA project will be carried out throughout the year aboard the Nautilus vessel.



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