If you read my blog regularly, and I hope you do, you know I am an avid space program lover. I await the next launch with anticipation much like my dog Auggie does a bone. This article is about the Orbilander which is a combination orbiter and a lander. Pretty cool, right?

John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory group of scientific minds and engineers devised the Orbilander and pitched it to NASA with the express intent of seeing if there is life on Enceladus. Enceladus is Saturn’s moon and was discovered by the Cassini Telescope in 2005 and 2017 and again by the James Webb Telescope in 2022.

Enceladus is a small moon of only three hundred thirteen miles in diameter. What Cassini saw was a planet entirely covered in ice and a waterspout coming from Enceladus. The water comes from hydrothermal vents on her ocean floor. The scientists called this activity “tiger stripes”. It has been documented that this phenomenon is so strong that the material being spewed forms a ring around Saturn. Now that is very strong!

Analysis shows that the material from this waterspout is part methane gas, part carbon dioxide, and ammonia. These are the chemicals that can create life and may have even been created from life. That is important information.

Cassini also noted that there is a subsurface ocean on Enceladus that may be habitable. In order to sufficiently pursue Enceladus and her plumes of water a team of scientists have promoted what they call a “flagship mission” whereby they are funded $2.5 billion to conduct this study. The Orbilander would be the star in this mission. She would be fitted with instrumentation that could effectively weigh and analyze molecules and sequence DNA, as well as, photograph and scan the surface of the moon.

If this plan moves forward the Orbilander would spend about two hundred days orbiting Enceladus collecting samples and trying to select a place to land. Cassini did not gather enough data for the scientists to determine a landing location during her tenure. As such Orbilander would do just that. Once a landing site is chosen the Orbilander would land. When on the surface the Orbilander would have about a year and a half of nuclear power to conduct more surveys. (see diagram below)

I am jazzed to see if NASA bites. Stay tuned for more.










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