Jason returns from its last dive of the expedition. Credit: WHOI

Searching for Life Where the Sun Don’t Shine (part 5): Explorations to the Seafloors of Earth and Europa

Posted: 02/07/13
Author: Garret Fitzpatrick

Summary: This series follows an oceanographic expedition to the Mid-Cayman Rise and NASA’s efforts to plan a future mission to Jupiter’s moon, Europa. In part five, scientists use high-tech submersibles to explore the seafloor and bring intriguing samples up to the surface.

This is Part 5 of a 6-part series telling the story of humankind’s efforts to understand the origins of life, by looking for it in extreme environments where life thrives without relying on the Sun as an energy source. It follows an oceanographic expedition to the Mid-Cayman Rise led by Chris German of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and NASA’s efforts to plan a future mission to Jupiter’s moon, Europa. By understanding how life can live without the Sun we may discover how life began on our planet, and whether or not Earth is the only place in the universe capable of supporting a biosphere.

As he watched Florida recede in the distance, thoughts of the journey behind and the one lying before Chris German filled a hopeful mind. “Deep joy,” describes German, reflecting on his outlook at the start of the expedition. “The mystery (of the existence of the vent sites) had already been removed by the 2009 & 2011 expeditions so we knew exactly where to go, I had the best kit on the planet to sample with in ROV Jason and in my NASA/NSF team I had assembled some of the best experts in the world, who have also become my friends along the way, to take out and sample the site with,” says German. “It couldn’t get much better.”

Read more: Searching for Life Where the Sun Don’t Shine (part 5): Explorations to the Seafloors of Earth and Europa — Astrobiology Magazine.

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