The exploration of Titan with an orbiter and a lake probe

Research areas:
Year:
2014
Authors:
  • Giuseppe Mitri
  • Athena Coustenis
  • Gilbert Fanchini
  • Alex G. Hayes
  • Luciano Less
  • Krishan Khurana
  • Jean-Pierre Lebreton
  • Rosaly M. Lopes
  • Ralph D. Lorenz
  • Rachele Meriggiola
  • Maria Luisa Moriconi
  • Roberto Orosei
  • Christophe Sotin
  • Ellen Stofan
  • Gabriel Tobie
  • Tetsuya Tokano
  • Federico Tosi
Journal:
PLANETARY AND SPACE SCIENCE
Volume:
104
Pages:
78-92
Month:
December
ISSN:
0032-0633
Abstract:
Fundamental questions involving the origin, evolution, and history of both Titan and the broader Saturnian system can be answered by exploring this satellite from an orbiter and also in situ. We present the science case for an exploration of Titan and one of its lakes from a dedicated orbiter and a lake probe. Observations from an orbit-platform can improve our understanding of Titan's geological processes, surface composition and atmospheric properties. Further, combined measurements of the gravity field, rotational dynamics and electromagnetic field can expand our understanding of the interior and evolution of Titan. An in situ exploration of Titan's lakes provides an unprecedented opportunity to understand the hydrocarbon cycle, investigate a natural laboratory for prebiotic chemistry and habitability potential, and study meteorological and marine processes in an exotic environment. We briefly discuss possible mission scenarios for a future exploration of Titan with an orbiter and a lake probe. (C) 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.