Saturn Moons Dual Orbiter
November 26, 2012
I want to go back to Enceladus and Titan with a single, dedicated Cassini-like orbiter. Except this orbiter will have an ion drive AND an atmospheric balloon probe for Titan. The probe would first orbit Enceladus for 1-2 years thoroughly sampling and resampling the plumes at very low altitude and imaging the moon. Due to the low gravity environment, orbital speeds will be very slow allowing very sharp imagery and detailed plume analyses. Imagine, just by orbiting this small moon and flying through the plumes you can sample the very stuff that's inside the moon. No drilling or landing is needed! Think of the science we could do! Forget Europa, we already have access to the water at Enceladus! After the Enceladus mission is complete, the orbiter can slowly spiral out to Titan! One orbiter...2 moons! At Titan the orbiter can slowly spiral in, taking measurements as it goes until it is close enough to release its atm probe. Due to Titan's size it will take many years to thoroughly explore. If at the end of the mission there is sufficient remaining propellant, the probe could spiral out again and enter orbit around Saturn and visit other moons on an extended mission. With ion engines imagine the delta V that would be available to visit these moons with close flyby's!
An asteroid or comet headed for Earth is the only large-scale natural disaster we can prevent. Working together to fund our Shoemaker NEO Grants for astronomers, we can help save the world.