After all the recent news about real-life asteroid mining and warp drive and impulse engines, I’m starting to get winded at how rapidly science fiction concepts are crossing out the “fiction” part. That’s a problem I’m happy to have, though, so I’m thoroughly enthused by this news that a group of European scientists and engineers are planning to send a paddleboat to Saturn’s largest moon, Titan.
Much like the Curiosity Mars rover, this boat would be specifically designed to navigate across Titan’s surface. Universe Today explains that the idea is for the so-called Titan Lake In-situ Sampling Propelled Explorer (TALISE) to land in Titan’s Ligeia Mare, the moon’s largest lake, and then make its way toward the nearest shore. Titan is covered with seas, lakes, and rivers composed of liquid ethane, methane and dissolved N2, so if you take any vacations there in the future, for the love of god don’t drink the water.
TALISE won’t be limited to sailing across Titan’s liquid parts either. In addition to the paddles, it can move using inflatable wheels or screws. Igone Urdampilleta, a member of the TALISE team, explains:
This allows the probe to move, under control, from the landing site in the lake, to the closest shore. The displacement capability would achieve the obtaining of liquid and solid samples from several scientific interesting locations on Titan’s surface such as the landing place, along the route towards the shore and finally at the shoreline.
The team also says that Titan’s “waterways” and its thick atmosphere make it more like a planet than a moon in many ways, so the research TALISE would be able to conduct could be very interesting. Assuming the boat isn’t swallowed by one of the giant beasts that no doubt swim through Titan’s lakes and oceans (in my imagination).