Darwin Mission Space

Darwin was a suggested ESA Cornerstone mission which would have involved a constellation of four to nine spacecraft designed to directly detect Earth-like planets orbiting nearby stars and search for evidence of life on these planets. The most recent design envisaged three free-flying space telescopes, each three to four metres in diameter, flying in formation as an astronomical interferometer. These telescopes were to redirect light from distant stars and planets to a fourth spacecraft, which would have contained the beam combiner, spectrometers, and cameras for the interferometer array, and which would have also acted as a communications hub. There was also an earlier design, called the “Robin Laurance configuration,” which included six 1. 5 metre telescopes, a beam combiner spacecraft, and a separate power and communications spacecraft.

Therefore, the results of the new study support the idea that primitive life could potentially have evolved on Ganymede. This is because places where water and rock interact are important for the development of life. For example, some theories suggest that life arose on our planet within hot, bubbling seafloor vents. Before the new study, Ganymede's rocky seafloor was believed to be coated with ice--not liquid. This would have presented a problem for the evolution of living tidbits. The "Dagwood sandwich" findings, however, indicate something else entirely--the first layer on top of Ganymede's rocky core might be made up of precious, life-sustaining salty water. There was a time when Earth had no Moon. About 4.5 billion years ago, when our ancient Solar System was still forming, the dark night sky above our primordial planet was moonless. At this time, the Earth was about 60 percent formed, although it did have a differentiated crust, mantle, and core. This was a very chaotic and violent era in our Solar System's past, with planets first forming out of blobs of primordial dust, gas, and rock. During this era, frequently likened to a "cosmic shooting gallery", collisions between the still-forming planets were commonplace. Orbits were not as orderly as they are now. The discovery of a moon for Makemake may have solved one perplexing puzzle concerning this distant, icy object. Earlier infrared studies of the dwarf planet showed that while Makemake's surface is almost entirely frozen and bright, some areas seem to be warmer than other areas. Astronomers had suggested that this discrepancy may be the result of our Sun warming certain dark patches on Makemake's surface. However, unless Makemake is in a special orientation, these mysterious dark patches should cause the ice dwarf's brightness to vary substantially as it rotates. But this amount of variability has not been observed.