The Search For Life: Space Submarine May Prevail Where Mars Curiosity Can’t

Riding off the success of the Mars Curiosity rover, NASA is designing the newest extraterrestrial exploration vehicles, including a space submarine. With NASA’s shoestring budget, using the submarine might just be wishful thinking, but it’s always nice to dream.

As recently reported on the Inquisitr, the Curiosity rover recently showed the world the clouds of Mars, one of many discoveries the rover has made since its successful touch down in 2012. Nevertheless, the Curiosity rover and Mars are limited.

If you want to explore lakes and rivers in space, you need more than the Curiosity, you need the space submarine.

You might be asking where are there lakes and rivers in space? Not Mars, the answer is the Saturn moon of Titan. As Steven Oleson of the NASA Glenn Research Center said,

“Titan is unique in the outer solar system in that it is the only one of the bodies outside the Earth with liquid lakes and seas on its surface. The Titanian seas, however, are not composed of water, like Earth’s seas, but are seas of liquid hydrocarbons. What lies beneath the surface of Titan’s seas? We propose to develop a conceptual design of a submersible autonomous vehicle (submarine) to explore extraterrestrial seas.”

The submarine will carry out scientific research autonomously, similar to the Mars Curiosity rover. It will be specifically designed to explore the Kraken Mare lake on Titan, which stretching across 1000 k.m. and with depths of 300 k.m., is comparable in size to the American great lakes.

Like with the Curiosity, Steven Oleson envisions the space submarine as a precursor to other vehicles to explore the unique moon.

The submersible vehicle is one of 12 proposals given the green-light for phase research, receiving $100,000 to develop the project for one year. If the prototype is successful the vehicle will move on to phase two and receive another $500,000.

Life without water?

In 2020, NASA will send a follow-up mission to Mars. The new vehicle will specifically be designed to seek out signs of life, whereas the Curiosity was designed for broader research. Mars still seems like the best hope for extraterrestrial life, because of theories that the planet once held liquid water, a necessary ingredient to life on Earth.

The space submarine would be searching for life based on a completely different base ingredient. The liquid methane that exists on Titan might also have life giving properties for alien creatures completely different from those on Earth.

Still, with space exploration underfunded, it might only be our grandchildren who will see pictures from the space submarine. In the meantime, we’ll have to watch the developments of the Mars Curiosity mission.

[Image Credit: NASA/Wikimedia Commons]