(Hat Tip: Centauri Dreams, Image Credit: NASA)
To say one could easily explore the surface of Titan without descending below the clouds would be as silly as trying to fathom Earth's oceanic depths without using machines to probe the deep.
If Titan is destined to be a future home for humanity, then we are going to have to find a way to accurately explore its surface.
Since exploring its surface via satellite may be useless due to the methane moon's "jelly insides," we may have to explore it via hot air balloon in order to map out this orange hazy moon.
(Titan and Saturn Future Exploration) We are now in the phase of describing our study of the past year for a return to Titan and the Saturnian System in extensive reports that will allow the science committees appointed by the agencies to evaluate the interest and feasibility of the mission. The JSDT, and the NASA, JPL and ESA engineers have been working hard on putting together these reports and on defining the science, as well as the measurement requirements related to our ambitious mission, which comprises a dedicated Titan orbiter, and two in situ elements : a hot-air (Montgolfière) balloon and a lander. The balloon is to fly over Titan’s mid latitudes at 10 km altitude for about 6 months, while a short-lived probe will land in a north-polar lake. The CNES French Agency has committed to supplying a large part of the balloon, and is actively studying the Montgolfière. For the lander, the flourishing heritage from Huygens is putting us in a strong, comfortable position.
Although some may suggest that we simply deploy another rover (as that will give us a ground view of things), and future machine with wheels my find itself getting stuck due to the chemical nature of Titan's sand grains.
A hot air balloon would probably be a better alternative, as it would not only give us a birds eye view of the region, but enable us to measure what Titan weather is like in the sky (as future colonists will probably construct "nitrogen planes" in order to transport goods across the surface).
Update: Corrected random link color error in blockquote.
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