Forget the Curiosity Rover currently trekking Martian plains for a second; because scientists are thinking even further afield. Namely, focussed on Saturn’s moon ‘Titan’, the only moon in our solar system to have a thick atmosphere, and one located at least 1.2 billion km from Earth.
But whereas the likes of the Rover has heavy-duty, thick-set tyres complete with subtle Morse code tracks to combat the dusty dunes of Mars, sending a probe to Titan brings up another set of complications. And that’s where Spanish engineering firm SENER comes in. Given the make-up of its surface – Titan’s dense atmosphere lends the moon a landscape of lakes and seas, even given its -180°c temperature – SENER proposes to design, build and send a ‘boat-like’ probe inspired in part by Mississippi River paddleboats to Titan in a bid to ‘paddle’ across one of the satellite’s vast hydrocarbon lakes, known as Ligeia Mare.
While the Huygens probe dropped onto Titan in 2005 delivered on its promise to study the atmosphere of Titan – and in addition brought back a more detailed understanding of the climate and landscape while it was there - deploying SENER’s Titan Lake In-Situ Sampling Propelled Explorer (or TALISE for short) will likely prove invaluable in learning more about Saturn’s largest satellite’s organically rich environment by taking both liquid and soil samples.
Igone Urdampilleta, an aerospace engineer at SENER, explains; “We thought, why not be capable of moving after landing so you can study the landing site, cruise to the shore, and explore the shore?” Why not indeed.
Image Credit (Top): ESA | The Huygens probe sits on Titan