NASA proposed to send a space probe to Neptune’s moon Triton, the planet’s largest moon, to study it from a closer distance and even search for alien life. Representatives from the NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) announced the plan at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Texas last week.
Triton and Neptune were explored by NASA in the 1980s with a brief flyby of the Voyager 2 spacecraft. On Triton, the findings pointed out that there are active geysers which make this Neptune’s moon one of the few geologically-active ones in our Solar System. In addition to that, its temperatures are extremely low, with surface temperatures of a bracing -391 degrees Fahrenheit (-235 degrees Celsius).
Triton, Neptune’s moon, is an appealing target for NASA
The reason why Triton is in the eyes of scientist an attractive mission target is that they think an ocean can be found on it, making it suitable for alien life. Furthermore, the scientists believe that Triton used to be a Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) that was captured by the gravity of Neptune and then pulled into orbit being turned into a moon. This event gives scientists the opportunity to study KBOs without the effort that would usually be taken to reach the distant edges of the Solar System.
Once Triton is studied, it will offer insights into how planets and moons can maintain water, especially if we take into consideration that Triton is so cold and its waters were supposed to be frozen due to its low temperatures. However as ammonia is present, the freezing point is lower than usual.
“The time is now to do this mission,” the principal investigator of the proposed mission and the director of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, Louise Prockter, said, according to the New York Times. “The time is now to do it at a low cost. And we will investigate whether it is a habitable world, which is of huge importance.”
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.