The article “Fertile Frontiers” by Nadia Drake gives various scientific and theoretical accounts on the possibility of life on the moons: Titan, Enceladus, and Europa.
The basis of such conjectures is the fact that each celestial body mentioned has varying properties conducive towards the creation of life in that there are bodies of water present, there is evidence of chemical processes occurring, and in some instances, such as that of Enceladus, higher temperatures, the amount of water present and the degree of chemical interactions that are occurring all result in similar environmental situations as that of some areas on Earth in which life is present.
The guiding theory in the article is one based on a comparative hypothesis which advocates that if some of the external/internal environments present on Titan, Enceladus, and Europa are similar or Earth-like and if such environments on Earth can harbor life then it is very likely that life, albeit microbial life, may exist on these moons. It is based on this particular form of conjecture that several probe missions have been planned to study these moons and gather samples in order to confirm the theories of scientists.
For me, I have always read science fiction stories, heard of scientific theories and read various forms of hypothesis regarding the possibility of life on other planets.
I guess it can be stated that humanity itself has a general curiosity regarding what might be out there in the vast reaches of space and as a result we have turned towards creating science fiction and various theories in order to satisfy this apparent curiosity. The only prevailing theory that I know of so far is the one that states that out of billions of galaxies and trillions of stars in the Universe it is possible that some where out there the conditions for life, similar to that of Earth, had also come about resulting in the creation of alien life forms.
While it may be true that humanity has yet to find any actual evidence to support this theory the fact remains that we have already discovered planets outside of our own solar system. As such it can only be a matter of time before we are able to find a planet that is Earth-like with life forms different but somewhat similar to what we have on our own planet.
The one thing that I would really be interested in knowing is if there really is life on Titan, Enceladus or Europa. The article ended on a rather tantalizing note stating that the ingredients for microbial life were present on such moons and as such this tidbit of information just arouses my curiosity even more.
For example, will only single celled organisms be found or will more complex multi-cellular species be unearthed, and if so how do they differ from organisms here on Earth? What precise mixture of chemical components and conditions can help create life? Is creating life in a lab possible using similar conditions? It is these and other questions that truly piqued my interest when reading the article and as such are questions which I will attempt to explore in the future.
What really surprised me about that article is the fact that so many possible “local” celestial bodies have the potential to harbor life. I always thought that life may be found one day but not so close to Earth and as such this really presents a rather interesting topic that bodes further research.
Drake, N (2011). Fertile frontiers . Retrieved September 26, 2011, from http://www.sciencenews.org/view/feature/id/334581/title/Fertile_frontiers