A spectacular new mission plan has emerged to ship a fleet of mini-drones to discover the liquid lakes of some of the thrilling locations within the Photo voltaic System—Saturn’s largest moon Titan.
In particulars printed on the pre-print science paper hub arXix, POSEIDON (Titan POlar Scout/orbitEr and In situ lake lander DrONe explorer) would contain two spacecrafts—an orbiter and a lander—with the latter taking to the large moon’s floor both a “lake lander,” a presumably amphibious giant drone and/or a fleet of mini-drones.
Any lander would discover the moon’s polar areas the place most of its lakes and seas reside. The authors say any mission would have an “excellent scientific impression.”
The one identified moon with an environment, Saturn’s largest moon has rain, lakes, oceans and ice comprised not of water, however of liquid ethane and methane. It’s thought of to be comparable in complexity to the Earth. It’s additionally one of many few locations within the Photo voltaic System with the potential for all times to exist.
Nonetheless, its thick environment obscures it from Earth or space-based telescopes. So the one manner planetary scientists can study its geology is with an in-situ orbiter and lander.
POSEIDON’s orbiter spacecraft would orbit Titan ideally in a low-eccentricity polar orbit, write the authors, in order that it might make repeat observations of atmospheric and floor adjustments. It could host a big set of devices to review Titan’s environment, geology and potential habitability.
The lander could possibly be a “lake lander” or a extra dangerous drone with the potential to land and float on liquids—an amphibious “hydrodrone”—or an air fleet of mini-drones to take atmospheric measurements and picture the floor in the course of the descent section. Titan’s low gravity and dense environment make it a great candidate for drone-based missions, say the authors.
Such a “lake” drone would have the ability to fly from one lake to a different, and land near their shorelines. It might additionally escort right down to the floor a fleet of mini-drones—mono-copter cubes of just some inches in dimension—and act as a mothership, a recharging and heating station, and an evaluation base the place the mini-drones might drop-off samples.
If it turns into an official ESA mission then POSEIDON would ideally arrive at Titan simply earlier than the moon’s subsequent northern Spring equinox in 2039. The plan is to review the seasonal adjustments of Titan’s environment and floor, that are nonetheless largely unknown, however most evident near equinoxes.
The mission idea has been developed in response to the European Area Company’s (ESA) “Voyage 2050” doc, a name for concepts for large-class missions that meet three science priorities.
One is “Moons of the large planets,” which POSEIDON is clearly designed to handle. As such it builds on the legacy a mission in 2004 that noticed the tiny Huygens probe descend to Titan and ship again knowledge, although just for 90 minutes.
Nonetheless, the timing of the POSEIDON mission idea will make it a complementary mission to NASA’s Dragonfly drone, which is able to launch in 2025 and attain Titan’s equatorial areas in 2034. It can research Titan’s prebiotic chemistry for nearly three years.
Wishing you clear skies and huge eyes.