This Thursday, NASA will hold a news briefing ambiguously titled “Discoveries About Oceans Beyond Earth,” and while there’s little to no information about the secrets to be revealed, we do have a couple of clues.
First, NASA mentions there will be “new results” from the Cassini Spacecraft — currently on its “Grand Finale” tour of Saturn (it will be blown to bits later this year) and the Hubble Space Telescope. There will also be new information about the Europa Clipper to be launched to the Jupiter moon in the 2020s.
If we had to make an educated guess about the new results from Cassini, Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus is probably a safe bet. Sending a lander to the moon has been the talk of the scientific community since Cassini first discovered that there were icy plume-like geysers on the planet, which signaled the possiblity of an ocean world beneath its crust.
After all, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is working on robot designs for exploring moons like Europa, Titan, and Enceladus. Could this briefing be the unveiling of a new mission? Perhaps, but we’ll have to wait until Thursday to find out.
There will be a large panel of speakers at the briefing including Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator at the NASA Headquarters; Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA; Mary Voytek, NASA astrobiologist; Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist at JPL; Hunter Waite and Chris Glein, also on the Cassini team based in San Antonio; and William Sparks, an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.