It has been 3 days since the death of Cassini and we are still not over it. This wonderful beast laid the foundation to future missions to this lesser known planet. Saturn has always been an object of interest for scientists due to its unique rings which no other planet in our Solar system flaunts.
Something that is so intriguing to us must be close to the heart of the scientists involved in this mission. Linda Spilker a vital member of the Cassini mission joined NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory about Four decades ago. She worked for the Voyager mission and the recent Cassini mission from start to finish. It was evident from the discovery of geyser-like jets spewing water vapor and ice particles that the Icy-crust of Enceladus holds ocean like geography and has become the prime target of scientists for further studies. Pertaining to this information, Spilker doesn’t want her journey with Cassini and Saturn to end here and has proposed NASA a new mission to Saturn and its moons to derive a full proof evidence of the possibility of life on the planet.
As Linda explains, discoveries made by Cassini over Enceladus have changed the direction of planetary science. Multiple discoveries have further added to our database about this moon, especially the plume venting from its south pole, hydrocarbons in the plume, a global, salty ocean and hydrothermal vents on the seafloor. All these facts point out to the possibility of life inside the ocean world to a depth well beyond that of Earth’s habitable zone.
Linda was 22-year-old when she joined NASA in the year 1977 with a fresh Bachelor’s degree in physics. While interviewing for the job over at NASA, she was offered two options. One of them was to join the already up and running mission at Mars called Viking or be a part of the latest mission called Voyager which would be targeted at the colder planets of the solar system like Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. She chose to join the brand new mission and from then until the demise of Cassini she has been associated with the mission for nearly four decades now.
Linda also became one of the many “Voyager moms” and synced the birth of her kids to a rare planetary alignment proving her passion and dedication to her work. The planetary scientist has also been the recipient of more than 20 professional awards. The second mission to Saturn is inevitable as the secrets behind the planet is too strong an urge for the NASA scientists to resist.