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Published December 2022 | Published
Journal Article Open

Moonraker: Enceladus Multiple Flyby Mission


Enceladus, an icy moon of Saturn, possesses an internal water ocean and jets expelling ocean material into space. Cassini investigations indicated that the subsurface ocean could be a habitable environment having a complex interaction with the rocky core. Further investigation of the composition of the plume formed by the jets is necessary to fully understand the ocean, its potential habitability, and what it tells us about Enceladus's origin. Moonraker has been proposed as an ESA M-class mission designed to orbit Saturn and perform multiple flybys of Enceladus, focusing on traversals of the plume. The proposed Moonraker mission consists of an ESA-provided platform with strong heritage from JUICE and Mars Sample Return and carrying a suite of instruments dedicated to plume and surface analysis. The nominal Moonraker mission has a duration of ∼13.5 yr. It includes a 23-flyby segment with 189 days allocated for the science phase and can be expanded with additional segments if resources allow. The mission concept consists of investigating (i) the habitability conditions of present-day Enceladus and its internal ocean, (ii) the mechanisms at play for the communication between the internal ocean and the surface of the South Polar Terrain, and (iii) the formation conditions of the moon. Moonraker, thanks to state-of-the-art instruments representing a significant improvement over Cassini's payload, would quantify the abundance of key species in the plume, isotopic ratios, and the physical parameters of the plume and the surface. Such a mission would pave the way for a possible future landed mission.

Additional Information

© 2022. The Author(s). Published by the American Astronomical Society. Original content from this work may be used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 licence. Any further distribution of this work must maintain attribution to the author(s) and the title of the work, journal citation and DOI. O.M. and A.B. acknowledge support from CNES. J.I.L. was supported by the JPL Distinguished Visiting Scientist Program. Z.M. acknowledges funding from FEDER–Fundo Europeu de Desenvolvimento Regional funds through the COMPETE 2020–Operational Programme for Competitiveness and Internationalisation (POCI) and by Portuguese funds through FCT–Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia in the framework of project POCI-01-0145-FEDER-029932 (PTDC/FIS-AST/29932/2017). Centro de Química Estrutural acknowledges the financial support of FCT- Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (UIDB/00100/2020 and UIDP/00100/2020), and the Institute of Molecular Sciences acknowledges the financial support of FCT–Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (LA/P/0056/2020). Some of this work was conducted at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (80NM0018D0004). Reference herein to any specific commercial product, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise does not constitute or imply its endorsement by the United States Government or the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology. In memory of Prof. Anny-Chantal Levasseur-Regourd.

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August 22, 2023
October 23, 2023