On 28 October 2015 the space probe Cassini, which has been orbiting Saturn for the last 10 years, will pass within 50 km of the surface of Saturn’s moon Enceladus. This is an extremely close approach by an interplanetary spacecraft (by comparison the New Horizons mission only got as close as 12,500 km above the surface of Pluto) and will help us understand more about this icy moon.
Image from NASA
This post discusses this flyby and explains why, in many ways, Enceladus might be a better bet than Mars for finding life in our solar system.
Early views of extraterrestrial life
Throughout most of the twentieth century many scientists thought that there could be life on Mars. Indeed the famous American astronomer Percival Lowell (1855-1916) claimed to have seen through his telescope a large network of canals built by an intelligent civilization and even produced maps of the Martian canal network. These canals certainly provided great material for…