NASA dives deep under the water into the search for life

Near the coast of Hawaii’s Big Island and around 3,000 feet under the surface of the ocean lies a warm and bubbling springs of Volcano. It is making scientists believe that there could be a possibility of extraterrestrial life at this deep-sea location. 

Now NASA and its partner are working on a project called SUBSEA, which is the blend of ocean and space exploration. SUBSEA stands for Systematic Underwater Biogeochemical Science and Exploration Analog. Both sea and space exploration will help to understand the life at space and underwater in a much better way and will support to design future science-focused missions across the solar systems. 

According to the previous mission conducted on Saturn’s moon Enceladus and Jupiter’s moon Europa, both the moons have liquid oceans as well as hydrothermal activity under its icy crusts. Location on earth which have similarities to future deep-space destinations are known as the analog environment. The SUBSEA targets the springs erupting from the volcano that is responsible for forming the next Hawaiian island, also known as Lō`ihi seamount, which is an analog for these ocean worlds. 

When NASA conducted the Cassini mission on the Saturn, they discovered the plume of water which was erupting beneath the icy surface of Enceladus. When scientists studied the characteristics of these plumes of water, it helped them understand the conditions on the sea floor including the temperature, composition, pressure, and it also suggested the possibility of hydrothermal activity. 

As per the scientists, these moons are the right places to start looking for potential life. It is because water when interacts with the rock on their sea floors yield chemical reactions that can make the microbial metabolism possible. They also believe that Lō`ihi is mainly an excellent place to test predictions about seafloor hydrothermal systems and their potential to support life. 

Although previous studies were more focused on the places where tectonic plates join together, but the Lō`ihi seamount involves the plate which has molten magma erupting from the middle of it. The scientists also believe that this kind of volcanic activity is similar to seafloor volcanoes that exist on Europa and Enceladus. The zones where these two plates meet must be too hot to provide any realistic representation of hydrothermal activity that takes place on the moons of Jupiter and Saturn. The information they will get from the mission increases our understanding of the conditions that can support life forms on various ocean worlds.