“Boat” could explore alien seas of Saturn’s moon Titan in future

December 21st, 2009 - 3:07 pm ICT by ANI  

London, December 21 (ANI): A scientific team is all set to submit to NASA a daring proposal to try to put a “boat” down on a sea of Saturn’s moon Titan.

According to a report by BBC News, the explorer has been christened as Titan Mare Explorer (TiME).

The team behind the idea is targeting Ligeia Mare, a vast body of liquid methane sited in the high north of Saturn’s largest moon.

The concept will be suggested to the US space agency for one of its future mission opportunities that will test a novel power system.

It would be the first exploration of a planetary sea beyond Earth.

“It is something that would really capture the imagination,” said Dr Ellen Stofan, from Proxemy Research, who leads the study team.

“The story of human exploration on Earth has been one of navigation and seafaring, and the idea that we could explore for the first time an extraterrestrial sea I think would be mind-blowing for most people,” she told BBC News.

TiME has already been under study for about two years. It is envisaged as a relatively low-cost endeavour - in the low 400 million dollar range.

It could launch in January 2016, and make some flybys of Earth and Jupiter to pick up the gravitational energy it would need to head straight at the Saturnian moon for a splash down in June 2023.

The scientists have a couple of seas in mind for their off-world maritime research vessel, among which are Ligeia Mare and Kraken Mare, which are both about 500km across.

The primary objective of the mission would be to determine the precise chemistry of one of these lakes; but also to do meteorology, to help scientists better understand how the “methane-ologic cycle” on Titan actually works.

“The key instrument is a mass spectrometer because you want to know what the lake is made of, but we also want to do things like depth-sounding,” said Dr Stofan.

“We suspect from Cassini radar data that the lakes are many metres deep, but we’d love to know the overall shape of the lake basins,” Dr Stofan added.

“Other instruments would test different properties of the lake which would give you a handle on how the density of the liquid varied as the craft drifted along,” she further added. (ANI)

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