Tuesday, November 6, 2007

As promised, and after a general overview about the TANDEM project, spacEurope presents today the mission’s ambitious science goals.
If TANDEM gets approved nothing will be the same…


More knowledge about the upper atmosphere of Titan is indispensable to understand the entire atmosphere’s chemistry and physics…why?

Dedicating and intense investigation to the moon’s upper atmosphere, which ranges from around 400km to 950km of altitude, would allow scientists to take measurements that can not be made by Cassini which is above this region, neither by Huygens, TANDEM, by covering this area, would lead us to understand Titan’s entire atmosphere, with all the importance this for carries for astrobiological studies.
The mission would take a deep look to, not only to the upper atmosphere, but also to the moon’s plasma and magnetic field environment and to all the other layers of Titan’s atmosphere.

Another major objective would be to obtain data on the temperature, CH4, and C2H6 humidity, Titan’s wind fields and haze characteristics and its clouds internal structure and evolution.
The lakes would deserve all the attention from TANDEM by studying its evaporation rates and temperatures and also the volumetric changes in both lakes and river systems.

The surface of both moons, Titan and Enceladus would be thoroughly probed to get information about the composition and thermal properties.

How would this be achieved?

By obtaining infrared stereo and radar mapping with resolutions able to obtain details reaching 100m or less.
TANDEM would also obtain images from the surface with a resolution that would reveal compositional context on targets with less than 1 meter and it can potentially do infrared imaging from a near-surface platform which will also be used to select sampling sites for surface chemistry.
If this was not enough, TANDEM would also take us to different locations and in-situ hig-resolution measurements of this sites would reveal us a broader image from this Saturn’s moons.
The orbiter, during its mission, would also retrieve us a global compositional map with resolutions < 1kms and a ground penetrating radar would determine the depth and vertical structure of near sub-surface deposits on Titan.

Now let us move into the moon’s interior…How will TANDEM face this challenge?

By quantifying Titan’s spatial and temporal variations of the topography and the moon’s gravity and magnetic field. A parade of questions could be answered by the mission, I put one of these at the top: to search and to determine the depth and composition of a hypothetic liquid water layer on Titan, but others would be addressed regarding the moon’s seismic characteristics, from what are composed its surface materials and its cryovolcanic plumes and cryomagma.
The structure of the crust and the depth of the methanifer and the determination of element isotopic in the moon’s principal compounds both in the atmosphere and surface materials can become precious jewels in TANDEM’s arch of science.

All this studies would also be performed in full strength also in Enceladus with special attention to its enigmatic jets and plumes. TANDEM would pay a special attention to the astrobiological potential of the Saturnian moons under study, the mission can potentially measure their elemental, isotopic and molecular composition and answer questions about the chirality of Titan’s aerosols and the moon’s various surface materials.

Specific environments would also be scrutinized by the probes, cryovolcanoes would be analyzed to determine the chemical composition of their ejecta while on Enceladus it would be possible for the penetrators to answer questions about the plumes’ molecular and isotopic composition.

Prolonging Cassini’s extraordinary mission, TANDEM could help to complete Titan’s both seasonal and long-term variation jigsaw puzzles. The analogies between Titan and our own planet are evident, going from its climate and weather to its peculiar strastopheric polar hood, ressembling our planet’s ozone hole, also the moon’s methane hydrological cycle with may be related to processes taking place on Earth but taken to extremes…Titan, with its violent downpours, although sparse, presents a greenhouse weather pattern to which we can find parallels on our home planet.

Coming soon: #03 – TANDEM’s PAYLOAD

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