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NASA aims to sail across Titan's alien seas


Posted on Wednesday, 28 May, 2014 | Comment icon 6 comments

An artist's impression of the proposed Titan Mare Explorer mission. Image Credit: NASA
The only known moon with a thick atmosphere, Titan has been a prime target of interest for scientists.
When the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft first peered through the clouds surrounding Saturn's enigmatic moon, what it found was not a barren landscape of dust and rock but a more familiar world of lakes, seas and even rain, but composed of liquid hydrocarbons instead of water.

For years scientists have been attempting to design a mission that would see a spacecraft land in one of these mysterious seas and sail around, sampling the liquids and looking for signs of life.

One such mission is the Titan Mare Explorer (TiME). "It is essentially a drifting buoy much like those used in terrestrial oceanography," said Dr Ralph Lorenz. "The dominant movement is due to the wind so you can think of it as sailing."

Unfortunately however due to NASA's commitment to sending humans to Mars it may be some time before a mission like this can be undertaken.

"Realistically a mission like this now needs to wait until about 2040," said Lorenz.

Source: IB Times | Comments (6)

Tags: Titan, Saturn

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by paperdyer on 28 May, 2014, 12:06
While very worthwhile IMHO, I wonder what the construction of the buoy would be. We think we know what makes up the seas of Titan, but if we're wrong, the buoy could sink quickly if not made of the proper corrosion-resistant materials.
Comment icon #2 Posted by maximusnow on 28 May, 2014, 13:14
Titan is so extreme, it will surely be held together by one of the most incredible inventions of all time. Yes friend, I am talkin bout Alabama fix it all! Florida gator glue! Tennessee Billy bond! Georgia prepper patch! Aka: Duct tape.
Comment icon #3 Posted by Sundew on 29 May, 2014, 2:05
Just getting there will be half the battle, then there is landing, or perhaps splashdown is more precise, in a totally alien environment. The frigid temperatures, the relative density of the liquid, weather unlike any on Earth will certainly make for a difficult trip for the probe. 2040, hope I live long enough to see it!
Comment icon #4 Posted by taniwha on 29 May, 2014, 10:39
I think submarine would be a good way to go.
Comment icon #5 Posted by :PsYKoTiC:BeHAvIoR: on 29 May, 2014, 12:35
Titan is so extreme, it will surely be held together by one of the most incredible inventions of all time. Yes friend, I am talkin bout Alabama fix it all! Florida gator glue! Tennessee Billy bond! Georgia prepper patch! Aka: Duct tape. You sir would be an excellent travelling salesman.
Comment icon #6 Posted by Silent Trinity on 30 May, 2014, 10:36
It certainly is a mammoth undertaking, but if they get it right the results will be worth it i'm sure. I think one thing is for certain, they need to construct this lander (or should that be floater?) with as many contingency design features as possible. As others have mentioned there is the temperature, liquid density, getting the buoyancy right given the unknown composition of the oceans, giving it the ability to be submersible if needed, and indeed to recover from that state if it did find itself beneath the waves. Speaking as a 41 year old...I hope I am alive to see it! (wow that made me f... [More]


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