Nasa's Cassini to sample Saturn moon's ocean

2015-10-28 21:41
Cassini mission orbiter passing Saturn. (iStock)

Cassini mission orbiter passing Saturn. (iStock)

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Washington - The Nasa space probe Cassini on Wednesday began a mission to fly closer than ever before to the south pole of Saturn's moon Enceladus to sample water vapour emanating from an ocean believed to lurk below its icy surface, the space agency confirmed to dpa.

Nasa said it would be a few hours before it could determine the success of the trip, once Cassini re-establishes contact.

The probe is to fly within approximately 50km of the moon to pass through the plumes of ice and water that shoot like geysers from the moon's fissured surface, indicative of hydrothermal activity underneath.

The probe has passed closer to the moon previously, but never through the water vapour.

The moon, measuring 500km in diameter, is encased in a thick layer of ice. Ten years ago the Cassini space probe discovered ice-volcano eruptions at its south pole.

Cassini was launched in 1997 and went into orbit around Saturn in 2004. It has since determined that Enceladus has a "global ocean" and its hydrothermal activity could mean it has the ingredients needed to support life, according to Nasa.

Read more on:    nasa  |  us  |  space

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