Exo-Ocean Exploration with Deep-Sea Sensor and Platform Technologies

Aguzzi, Jacopo Flexas, María del MarFloghel, S.Lo Iacono, ClaudioTangherlini, M.Costa, CorradoMarini, S.Bahamon, Nixon Martini, SéverineFanelli, EmanuelaDanovaro, RobertoStefanni, SergioThomsen, L.Riccobene, G.Hildebrandt, M.Masmitja, I.Río, Joaquín delClark, E.B.Branch, A.Weiss, P.Klesh, A.T.Schodlok, Michael P.  Astrobiology 20(7): 1-20 (2020)  DIGITAL CSIC

One of Saturn’s largest moons, Enceladus, possesses a vast extraterrestrial ocean (i.e., exo-ocean) that is increasingly becoming the hotspot of future research initiatives dedicated to the exploration of putative life. Here, a new bio-exploration concept design for Enceladus’ exo-ocean is proposed, focusing on the potential presence of organisms across a wide range of sizes (i.e., from uni- to multicellular and animal-like), according to state-of-the-art sensor and robotic platform technologies used in terrestrial deep-sea research. In particular, we focus on combined direct and indirect life-detection capabilities, based on optoacoustic imaging and passive acoustics, as well as molecular approaches. Such biologically oriented sampling can be accompanied by concomitant geochemical and oceanographic measurements to provide data relevant to exo-ocean exploration and understanding. Finally, we describe how this multidisciplinary monitoring approach is currently enabled in terrestrial oceans through cabled (fixed) observatories and their related mobile multiparametric platforms (i.e., Autonomous Underwater and Remotely Operated Vehicles, as well as crawlers, rovers, and biomimetic robots) and how their modified design can be used for exo-ocean exploration