Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Europa has always held a special place in my heart. It is only logical that we should orbit it, scan it with powerful radar, then land on the surface. Some day, we should also attempt to melt through the ice if that seems possible, and explore the oceans below. Europa is a great place to look for life (among many others like Mars, Jupiter, Ceres, Enceladus, etc.) But there are several problems with this and other moons in the area; they have essentially no atmosphere. For Europa, we also have to deal with high radiation.
Titan is growing on me, and it has some good things going for it. Firstly, the possible biosphere is near the surface (some drilling may be enough rather than melting through kms of ice.) Also, the thick atmosphere allows for purely passive deceleration and landing. Few other bodies can offer this, and no other moons can. (Mars does, but Mars is for manned exploration and further probes that do not directly support a manned visit are just delaying the inevitable.) Titan would also support balloons, aerostats, and airplanes for exploration. Due to the heavy atmosphere and low gravity, I dare say helicopters and VTOL style jets would work well.
The Universe Today