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NASA Plans to Sample Saturn’s Largest Moon

Suara.com – The NASA research team plans to sample Saturn’s largest moon, Titan.

The sampling mission is believed to be able to find unexpected life forms and bring back chemical compounds, which cannot be found on Earth.

The team is drafting a mission concept that would use the methane lakes on Titan as a fuel source to propel the plane on its way back to Earth.

The second largest moon in the solar system is still a mystery because it is the only place in the solar system with liquid flows and lakes on its surface.

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These streams and lakes do not store water, but hydrocarbons such as methane.

However, Titan also has water beneath the moon’s frozen surface.

In addition, Titan’s atmosphere is made up of nitrogen, just like Earth.

NASA logo. [Shutterstock]

A team of engineers from the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland recently received a NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) grant worth US $ 125,000 to see the feasibility of a Titan sampling mission.

Interestingly, a landing on Titan is said to be easier to do than a landing on Mars.

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That’s because Titan’s atmosphere is six times thicker than Earth’s and that would have provided enough drag to slow down the landing.

“We hope the landing on Titan is relatively easy,” said Steven Oleson at Glenn, who created the conceptual spacecraft design for NASA. Space.com, Saturday (22/5/2021).

Scientists believe that the water oceans beneath Titan’s surface could have life similar to those found in the deepest regions of Earth’s oceans.

Even though the surface temperature is minus (-) 179 degrees Celsius and the air pressure is 50 percent higher than that of Earth, the surface of the hydrocarbon lakes may also have life.

Planet Saturn. [NASA]
Planet Saturn. [NASA]

These life forms may be very different from those on Earth. In addition, experts are also interested in a chemical compound found in Titan’s atmosphere called tholin.

This compound, which cannot be found on Earth, is believed by experts to play a key role in the emergence of life on Earth billions of years ago.

While the concept of returning samples is far from being planned, NASA has a Dragonfly mission slated to embark on a trip to the Saturn system in 2027.


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