Science Goals And New Mission Concepts For Future Exploration Of Titan's Atmosphere Geology And Habitability

By Keith Cowing
October 22, 2021
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Science Goals And New Mission Concepts For Future Exploration Of Titan's Atmosphere Geology And Habitability
Global map of Titan’s major geomorphological units (after Lopes et al. 2020).

In response to ESA Voyage 2050 announcement of opportunity, we propose an ambitious L-class mission to explore one of the most exciting bodies in the Solar System, Saturn largest moon Titan.

Titan, a “world with two oceans”, is an organic-rich body with interior-surface-atmosphere interactions that are comparable in complexity to the Earth. Titan is also one of the few places in the Solar System with habitability potential. Titan remarkable nature was only partly revealed by the Cassini-Huygens mission and still holds mysteries requiring a complete exploration using a variety of vehicles and instruments.

The proposed mission concept POSEIDON (Titan POlar Scout/orbitEr and In situ lake lander DrONe explorer) would perform joint orbital and in situ investigations of Titan. It is designed to build on and exceed the scope and scientific/technological accomplishments of Cassini-Huygens, exploring Titan in ways that were not previously possible, in particular through full close-up and in situ coverage over long periods of time.

In the proposed mission architecture, POSEIDON consists of two major elements: a spacecraft with a large set of instruments that would orbit Titan, preferably in a low-eccentricity polar orbit, and a suite of in situ investigation components, i.e. a lake lander, a “heavy” drone (possibly amphibious) and/or a fleet of mini-drones, dedicated to the exploration of the polar regions. The ideal arrival time at Titan would be slightly before the next northern Spring equinox (2039), as equinoxes are the most active periods to monitor still largely unknown atmospheric and surface seasonal changes.

The exploration of Titan northern latitudes with an orbiter and in situ element(s) would be highly complementary with the upcoming NASA New Frontiers Dragonfly mission that will provide in situ exploration of Titan equatorial regions in the mid-2030s.

Science goals and new mission concepts for future exploration of Titan’s atmosphere geology and habitability: Titan POlar Scout/orbitEr and In situ lake lander and DrONe explorer (POSEIDON)

Sébastien Rodriguez, Sandrine Vinatier, Daniel Cordier, Gabriel Tobie, Richard K. Achterberg, Carrie M. Anderson, Sarah V. Badman, Jason W. Barnes, Erika L. Barth, Bruno Bézard, Nathalie Carrasco, Benjamin Charnay, Roger N. Clark, Patrice Coll, Thomas Cornet, Athena Coustenis, Isabelle Couturier-Tamburelli, Michel Dobrijevic, F. Michael Flasar, Remco de Kok, Caroline Freissinet, Marina Galand, Thomas Gautier, Wolf D. Geppert, Caitlin A. Griffith, Murthy S. Gudipati, Lina Z. Hadid, Alexander G. Hayes, Amanda R. Hendrix, Ralf Jauman, Donald E. Jennings, Antoine Jolly, Klara Kalousova, Tommi T. Koskinen, Panayotis Lavvas, Sébastien Lebonnois, Jean-Pierre Lebreton, Alice Le Gall, Emmanuel Lellouch, Stéphane Le Mouélic, Rosaly M. C. Lopes, Juan M. Lora, Ralph D. Lorenz, Antoine Lucas, Shannon MacKenzie, Michael J. Malaska, Kathleen Mandt, Marco Mastrogiuseppe, Claire E. Newman, Conor A. Nixon, Jani Radebaugh, Scot C. Rafkin, Pascal Rannou, Ella M. Sciamma-O-Brien, Jason M. Soderblom, Anezina Solomonidou, Christophe Sotin, Katrin Stephan, Darrell Strobel, Cyril Szopa, Nicholas A. Teanby, Elizabeth P. Turtle, Véronique Vuitton, Robert A. West

Comments: arXiv admin note: substantial text overlap with arXiv:1908.01374
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP); Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics (astro-ph.IM)
Cite as: arXiv:2110.10466 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:2110.10466v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Sebastien Rodriguez
[v1] Wed, 20 Oct 2021 10:10:29 UTC (1,800 KB)

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻