Titan exploration into the future

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We have finally recently found out which way things are planned to go for future exploration into the Outer Solar System.

The decision from the two agencies (NASA and ESA) was posted on:

As an extract:
“National Aeronautics and Space Administration and European Space Agency officials decided to continue pursuing studies of a mission to Jupiter and its four largest moons, and to plan for another potential mission to visit Saturn’s largest moon Titan and Enceladus. ”
“The [SSWG] group recommended, and NASA agreed, that both missions should move forward for further study and implementation. ”
“Although the Jupiter system mission has been chosen to proceed to an earlier flight opportunity, a Saturn system mission clearly remains a high priority for the science community.”

So it seems that we may have to wait a little longer to see this mission launched, to plunge through Enceladus’ plumes, to hover over dune fields and to land in a Titan lake. No matter. The first aim of this community is to have the need for a future space mission to the outer planets recognized and transformed into reality. We may be heading for Jupiter first, but as said in the text, and as it has been well demonstrated by the reactions within this community, the public and the press, we shall need to go even further in the future.

For myself, the excitement I have felt during the past 15 months continues. During that time, I have had the immense pleasure and honor to work, exchange ideas and argue with people from all over the world over the most fascinating subject ever: a future mission to return to the Saturnian system to hunt down information on fascinating aspects like Titan’s atmosphere and surface, Enceladus geysers and Saturn’s magnetosphere. Actually, the adventure had  started even earlier for me, when we were preparing the proposal for Tandem within the framework of ESA’s Cosmic Vision 2015-2025 or the study of the 2007 Flagship Titan Explorer mission. With the help and enthusiasm from friends and colleagues and in general from Titan exploration afficionados, I think I’m ready to continue towards the exploration of the Outer Solar System with a first stop at Jupiter and then on to Saturn.

Indeed, NASA and ESA have decided that TSSM studies must continue. We do not know the exact terms for this continuation yet, but we will at least set up communication paths that will allow us to stay in touch and to exchange ideas on future Titan, Enceladus and Saturn System exploration through  web sites for TSSM and products.

I’m looking forward to see how best this future exploration will be implemented in the coming months.

About Athena Coustenis

Athena Coustenis is a planetologist working at Paris-Meudon Observatory and studying the outer solar system, the giant planets, their satellites and the exoplanets. She is also interested in future space exploration of the external solar system.

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