NASA Looking to Explore Saturn’s Biggest Moon Titan

NASA

Despite the temperatures averaging -290 degrees F, NASA is looking to explore Saturn’s biggest moon, Titan. The moon is cited as a source of great interest amongst scientist at the government space agency because of its Earth-like geography, hydrocarbon lakes and possible life existence. Titan was visited earlier by the Cassini-Huygens probe, but the space agency would like to return with a more capable device: a quadrotor. It will weigh less than 10kg (22 pounds), and be deployed from a nuclear recharging mothership balloon.

The drone will be able to take high-res images at varying distances, take samples to be analyzed later at the mothership ballon, and take microscopic photos. More recently, the space exploration center agency discovered the aromatic nature of Titan with the Cassini-Huygens probe.

The rocket scientists discovered an unidentified chemical composition beneath the orange haze of the moon. Melissa Trainer, a representative of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, stated that the material has a strong aromatic character that helps her team further understand the mysterious chemical mixture. She said that the smell is most closely related to the smell of a gas station. Scientists recreated the smell by observing the mixture spotted by Cassini-Huygens, and doing their best to recreate it in their lab by combining different chemicals. It was a matter of matching the colors of Titan’s mixture as closely as possible.

The problem is that Titan’s atmosphere’s orange hue could be a result of a combination of compounds. NASA is looking to further decipher this unique mixture with their deployment of their drone quadrotor when they continue to explore Saturn’s biggest moon, Titan. The closest the U.S. space agency got to replicating the chemical mixture was with an artificial creation composed of methane, nitrogen, and benzene.

Titan is so large that it influences the orbits of nearby moons. It is 3,200 miles across, making it the second largest moon in the solar system. One of the main reasons NASA is looking to explore Titan, Saturn’s biggest moon, is because the surface has eluded their previous attempts to view it. The moon is covered by a thick nitrogen atmosphere and is similar to Earth’s due to the high nitrogen content. Earth’s atmosphere extends 60 km from the surface, Titan’s extends 600 km. One day on Titan is equivalent to 16 days on Earth. It is hailed as the most Earth-like world in the solar system due to its seas, lakes, and flowing rivers, however, they are composed of liquid methane and ethane instead of water.

The atmosphere and high nitrogen content of the moon makes it one of the most likely places in the solar system for life to exist. Although scientists at the government agency said that chances of there being life on the moon is very unlikely, finding a habitat on the moon where life could exist is more probable. NASA’s quadrotor drone will be one of the most advanced technologies ever developed by the government space agency. They have not given any estimations for when the project will be complete.

By Andres Loubriel

Sources:
NASA
RT
Space

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