Historically the world’s space exploration attempts have focused exclusively on terrestrial missions. And until recently, the search for life on other planets was reserved for rovers with wheels. But now, following much speculation that life could exist in harsher climates and subsurface oceans, scientists are looking to send a boat to Titan.
Titan is Saturn’s largest moon and is home to dozens of liquid methane lakes. And on September 27th 2012 at the European Planetary Science Congress in Madrid, a group of European scientists proposed sending the Titan Lake In-situ Sampling Propelled Explorer (TALISE) to the largest of these lakes – Ligeia Mare – to study its possible habitability. With temperatures as low as -178C, scientists believe that Titan is simply not suitable for life; yet others argue that the thick Earth-like atmosphere of Titan could provide enough insulation for a giant subsurface ocean.
While the 2005 Huygens probe landed on Titan and provided 90 minutes worth of data, the TALISE space boat is expected to carry out research for 6 months. The boat’s propulsion method is still being reviewed with the three main methods seen below, and scientists are also looking at the use of tank wheels, air propellers, liquid propellers and a hovercraft design.
TALISE is currently in its early conceptual stages and its feasibility is not yet known.