While NASA's Curiosity Rover keeps beaming cool stuff back to us from Mars, scientists are already looking for the next big thing to explore. Now a team has set its sights on Titan, Saturn's largest moon, but they don't want to send a rover.
Spain's Centro de Astrobiología and the private Spanish engineering firm SENER have partnered for the Titan Lake In-situ Sampling Propelled Explorer (TALISE) project, which would target the large number of lakes and methane rivers on Titan. The moon's thick atmosphere makes it very similar to Earth, and though its temperature is very low (averaging minus 289 Fahrenheit), scientists still think it's possible that the large amount of liquid on the planet could mean there's life somewhere on the planet.
In an attempt to confirm this, the TALISE team wants to land a boat in Ligeia Mare, the moon's largest lake, and let it paddle around for six months or so in search of evidence of life. The last probe to make it to Titan, the European Space Agency's Huygens probe, landed on the moon back in 2005 but only transmitted for a few hours. The TALISE project is still in the beginning stages, but the team is confident that with the right design they can achieve what Huygens couldn't: a long-term, long-range exploration of Titan.
"The main innovation in TALISE is the propulsion system," said TALIS team member Igone Urdampilleta. "This allows the probe to move, under control, from the landing site in the lake, to the closest shore. The displacement capability would achieve the obtaining of liquid and solid samples from several scientific interesting locations on Titan's surface such as the landing place, along the route towards the shore and finally at the shoreline."
The team presented their plan to Spain's Planetary Science Congress in Madrid last month. There's no launch date for the project yet, but if the design works, we could be just a few years away from space sailing.
(Via Huffington Post)