Friday, March 20, 2015

Blog #5: Is Titan submarine the most daring space mission yet?

Is Titan submarine the most daring space mission yet?

Saturn's moon Titan has long been a possible destination to send probes to search for possible life within our solar system and with a new plan by the NASA Innovated Advanced Concepts initiative, where scientists are urged to "think outside the box", this may become reality sooner than expected. Titan has always been an attractive locale for more scientific research since it was discovered to have seas of liquid methane and ethane rather than water. The plan is to send a robotic submarine that would be capable of maneuvering in the seas of Titan where it would perform a number of tests such as mapping the sea floor to catalog Titan's rich climatic history.

The submarine would be delivered by a X-37B United States Military Rocket and then glide down to the surface via parachutes. This mission is one that would be piggybacking off some previously proposed ideas that never got a green light. The submarine that is intended to go to Titan will have to be fixed so that it can not only run in that environment but also so that all the mechanics can properly function as well.

The timing for this mission is a difficulty as well. Because of the alignment between Earth and Saturn, the next time that we would be in a proper position to launch would be around 2040 but with the aid of the International Space Station that time window can hopefully be shortened. Also, the desired power source, plutonium-238 is a severely limited resource so a new method may have to be discovered in order for a craft to reach that far out into the solar system once more.

Ryan Campbell
March 20, 2015

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