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Penetrators for TITAN/ENCELADUS

Top - Dunes on Titan

Bottom - dunes in Namibia


JPL images


Titan and Enceladus are extraordinary Moons of Saturn.

Titan, though similar in size to our Moon, has an atmosphere denser than Earth's; clouds; wind; weather; lakes; rivers; mountains and dunes. Though its surface chemistry is not oxygen and water based, it has a very complex organic chemistry, and is a potential candidate to harbour life.

Enceladus is equally unusual, but in a totally different way. It is smaller than the UK, though spherical in shape, with a powerful geyser near its south pole emitting chemicals into space, which include water molecules.

Enceladus - Size compared to UK


NASA Image

The proposed ESA/NASA mission TanDEM to investigate both these astounding worlds, narrowly lost out to the Europa/Ganmede Jupiter mission. However, studies continue with particular interest being the deployment and operation of a balloon and an associated Lake Lander.

We believe that Penetrators dropped into the surface of Titan could be potentially useful in the search for biomarkers and investigatation of habitability; internal structure; chemical and physical properties. Deployment from a balloon into the dunes and alluvial plains could be a particularly suitable very low mass solution, offering relatively low gee-force impacts of all worlds in the solar system.

Deployment onto Enceladus would, however, be much more challenging requiring a relatively high mass due to the need for rocket deceleration in the absence of nearby bodies to achieve the necessary delta-V bleed-off. Location of a suitable impact site would also have to be addressed.

However, we wish the best for such a mission to the Saturniun system, and hope that the chance to investigate Enceladus from the surface is not passed over in the probable once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Titan-Enceladus Penetrator Presentations


1st February 2011, Rob Gowen. rag@mssl.ucl.ac.uk

Mullard Space Science Laboratory - Holmbury St. Mary, Dorking, Surrey. RH5 6NT. - Telephone: +44 (0)1483 204100 - Copyright © 1999-2005 UCL

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