Remember the once suggested submarine (NASA) that would power its way through the methane oceans of Titan? As cool as it was, it was never taken beyond concept. Shame and I hope they kept the plans as there are oodles of oceans to explore throughout the galaxy, throughout the universe.
But if not a submarine, what? Actually, the submarine still has a shot at reaching Titan’s beaches, TWA & the space submarine make take a tour together. Both have the added benefit of having been designed with the understanding that the configuration or properties could be changed slightly to visit to Saturn, or anyone of the extraterrestrial planets with oceans. Of course the TWA doesn’t require an ocean. What is the TWA?
The TWA is the “Titan Winged Aerobot” – part glider and part balloon. The TWA was inspired by the T-LEAF (Lifting Entry Atmospheric Flight) a class of vehicles that is designed to first enter the atmosphere, and then shift into flight mode. Its unique buoyancy system allows it to ascend & descend without the use of propulsion systems. (By the way, the atmosphere on Titan is such that a human could jump off the 20th floor and glide to the surface versus going ‘splat’ – cool huh?)
What’s truly awesome is scientists are hoping to find not only life in Titan’s liquid ocean, but also land-based life. That could actually spell more complicated forms of life – though that does not necessarily mean as complicated as human life. Still, what if it is more complicated?
So, the TWA on would operate like a hybrid balloon and glider, first it would be utilizing a unique buoyancy system to allow it to ascend and descend without the use of propulsion systems or flight control surfaces. The meaning of its minimal moving parts means it could squeeze more power, which translates into time, out of a single radioisotope power source. The space-craft or more aptly space-glider would be able to swoop low and snap detailed high resolution photos as well as infrared images and even conduct a limited sub surface review through radar so that it could discover the exact makeup of Titan.
The fact that we are becoming so advanced in the technology we send means possibly finding out the answer to the life question in one visit. Plus Titan has been on NASA and the world’s ‘radar’ for so long that going there is simply a foregone conclusion.
Remember though, besides this awesome glider, there may be attached a really cool submarine. AND this may be the first of many worlds the two visit!