How Will Exploring Saturn's Moon Titan Be Different?
Today's episode is brought to you by IBM. SMART is open open is smart i._B._M.'s combining their industry expertise with open source leadership of Red Hat. Let's unlock the world's potential. Let's put smart to work learn more at I._B._M.. Dot Com slash slash red hat welcome to brain stuff production of iheartradio. Hey rain stuff. Lauren Vogel bomb here. NASA has announced that it will launch a space probe called dragonfly on an ambitious mission to Saturn's Saturn's Moon Titan in which a robotic rotorcraft lander will fly around Titan's surface and touchdown in various places as part of its exploratory mission the dragonfly space probe will look for traces of chemical processes similar to the ones that led to life on earth in addition to gathering other information about the Moon's surface and atmosphere dragonfly will launch twenty twenty six and arrive at Titan which is eight hundred eighty six million miles. That's one point four billion kilometers from the Sun in Twenty thirty four once they're. The space probe which is about the size of the Space Agency's spirit and Opportunity Mars Rovers will turn on eight rotors and fly through Titan's dense hazy atmosphere which is about four times the density of Earth's and explore. It's still mysterious surface. A Titan is the biggest of Saturn's sixty two moons and a close second in moon size at our solar system after Jupiter's Moon Ganymede has radius of about sixteen hundred miles or twenty five hundred kilometers making it about fifty percent wider than Earth's moon but it's not just titan size is it is made it a longtime object to fascination scientists Titan is also the only moon in the solar system with much of an atmosphere and it's the only slot in the solar system besides earth that's known to have Liquid Rivers Lakes and seas on its surface though the latter are made up of liquid hydrocarbons such as methane and ethane titans also believed to have an underground ocean of water deep beneath its icy surface that could possibly have harboured some form of life or may still contain it. The titans surface is brutally cold like. Minus two hundred ninety degrees Fahrenheit or one hundred and seventy degrees Celsius cold but conditions potential underground ocean are unknown titans thick atmosphere is about ninety five percent nitrogen with the rest mostly composed of methane the creates a thick orange colored haze hangs over the moon's surface making it difficult to observe from Earth much of what we do know comes from the European Space Agency's how Hon spacecraft which landed on Titan and transmitted data for seventy two minutes in two thousand five and from NASA's Cassini probe which did multiple fly bys of Titan between two thousand five in two thousand seventeen. How huns was actually attached to Cassini for these seven year trip to Titans vicinity scientists are particularly excited about dragonflies ability to fly rather than crawl crawl along the ground unlike Mars where NASA also plans to test a small robotic helicopter with large high speed blades twenty twenty titans atmosphere's thick enough to enable dragonfly to attain lift with relatively small Reuters and carry a bigger payload over longer distances? Mrs Than the experimental copter being sent to Mars. It's expected to cover more than one hundred miles or one hundred seventy five kilometers during its nearly three year mission on Titan it will fly in short hops up to five minutes at a time we spoke by email with Jason some sort of bomb a research scientist in the Department of Earth Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and one of dragonflies co investigators he explained flight allows us to move the lander much greater distances in a short period of time than a traditional rover allowing us to more efficiently explore Titan. We also spoke by email with Kurt Neiber new frontiers program scientist for NASA. He said the dragonflies design is fundamentally different from the Mars helicopter quote not just because the atmosphere of Titan on Mars are so different but because they are different vehicles the Mars helicopter is a short lived technology demonstration with no science payload dragonfly is a self contained space craft designed to pursue science mission with high autonomy. It's like comparing a self driving car in electric. Electric Scooter both have wheels but they have very different purposes and therefore very different designs. The researchers working on dragonfly are excited about the opportunity to investigate the giant moons many mysteries Neiber said I'm looking forward to dragonfly finally giving US detailed answers about the surface of Titan at the small scale not just its composition but also its geology telling us about the complex organic materials present there and how they interact and also giving us a good look at surface features like dunes and the cell Crater Cassini he did a good job at giving us broad answers to this question at the large scale tens of miles for example but nothing beats getting down to the surface and actually digging your hands and feet in so to speak solder Baum also spoke to this. He said there's a plethora of unanswered answered questions about Titan's surface. One fundamental question we have yet to answer is what is the composition of titans major geologic units or if the water ice bedrock is exposed anywhere on Titan or if it's been buried beneath organic gunk this is because Titan's atmosphere obscures. Surface at most wavelengths limiting our ability to use traditional remote sensing techniques to study the surface composition dragonflies scrutiny of Titan's surface may also yield insights about the moon's atmosphere and the chemistry going on there which could in turn wind up helping us understand more about ourselves. We also spoke with Sarah Horst an assistant professor in the School of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Johns Hopkins University. WHO's also an investigator on the project? She said that chemistry and the atmosphere's interact with the surface quote is important for understanding the role that atmospheres play in the origin or evolution of life and also help us figure out what types molecules may constitute evidence for life when we're looking at observations faraway atmosphere's like those of exoplanets. Today's episode was by Patrick Jake Hyder and produced by Tyler Clang Breen stuff is a production of iheartradio's. How stuff works her moines? This lots of other far out topics bizarre home planet has networks dot com in for more podcasts from iheartradio radio with the iheartradio APP apple podcasts or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.