Solar System Exploration

Icy Moons and Their Habitability

Authored by: Steven D. Vance

Handbook of Astrobiology

Print publication date:  December  2018
Online publication date:  December  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138065123
eBook ISBN: 9781315159966
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter reviews current knowledge on icy-covered ocean worlds in the solar system—satellites of the giant planets and at least one Kuiper Belt object—and current thinking on their prospects for supporting life. These worlds contain abundant liquid water, the first prerequisite for life, as it exists on Earth. From the handful of additional available constraints obtained by spacecraft missions, some of these worlds also appear to provide the chemical conditions needed to sustain life. Planned spacecraft missions will begin to look for signs of habitability and extant life in some of these icy ocean worlds, and missions to follow in the ensuing decades may have the chance to sample living organisms directly.

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