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.
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