NASA is holding a major press conference this week to reveal its latest results on ocean worlds in our own solar system.
At the said mysterious event, the U.S. space agency will disclose findings on its “broader search for life beyond Earth,” as well as things that could potentially affect “future ocean world exploration.”
News On Oceans Beyond Earth
The announcements, to be given in a news briefing 2 p.m. EDT this Thursday, April 13, will relate to findings from its Cassini spacecraft as well as the Hubble Space Telescope. They will be made at the NASA headquarters’ James Webb Auditorium in Washington, with remote participation from experts across the United States.
“These new discoveries will help inform future ocean world exploration — including NASA’s upcoming Europa Clipper mission planned for launch in the 2020s — and the broader search for life beyond Earth,” NASA said in a statement.
Participants in the media briefing will include Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for Science Mission Directorate; Jim Green, Planetary Science Division director; and astrobiology senior scientist Mary Voytek.
The panel and remotely positioned experts will entertain questions during the event, while the public can also ask their own questions using the hashtag #AskNASA.
Cassini’s Planned Demise
The Cassini spacecraft, launched in 1997 and which arrived in the Saturn system in 2004, is bound to end its two-decade mission on Sept. 15 with a planned probe kill. In a final maneuver, Cassini, currently facing a fuel crunch, will be set on a collision course with Saturn’s atmosphere and is expected to “break apart, melt, vaporize, and become a part of the very planet it left Earth 20 years ago to explore,” according to project manager Earl Maize.
This crash has been planned by the agency to avoid contamination of a nearby moon hoped to potentially harbor alien life.
Afterward, NASA’s planned Europa Clipper will position a spacecraft in orbit around Jupiter to perform a detailed probe of moon Europa. The giant planet’s moon has exhibited strong proof of an ocean of liquid water, situated beneath icy crust and which could be hospitable to life.
Cassini has been deemed generally productive given the high-value investigation of Saturn, its rings, and moons. It transmitted, for instance, images that highlighted Enceladus’ geysers with a hint of an ocean underneath, as well as the Earth-like moon Titan.
Other Recent Space Adventures
Other NASA missions are marking their own milestones. Just recently, the New Horizons probe successfully reached the halfway point between Pluto and its second target for flyby, the remote Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69.
The probe reached this milestone on April 3 at midnight UTC (April 2, 8 p.m. ET), at a distance of 486.19 million miles from Pluto and the same distance to the remote asteroid. New Horizons eyes swooping past the object, located about 1 billion miles beyond Pluto, on Jan. 1, 2019 — another record for space explorations.
New Horizons reached Pluto in July 2015 after its launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida back in January 2006. As Pluto’s first guest from Earth, it is currently 3.5 billion miles from our planet, taking radio signals five hours and 20 minutes to get from the control center in Johns Hopkins University in Maryland to the spacecraft.