DPS 2001 meeting, November 2001
Session 14. Decadal Survey Posters
Displayed, 9:00am Tuesday - 3:00pm Saturday, Highlighted, Tuesday, November 27, 2001, 5:00-7:00pm, French Market Exhibit Hall

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[14.18] Future Exploration of Titan

R. D. Lorenz (LPL, University of Arizona), Titan Decadal Panel Collaboration

Titan promises to be the Mars of the Outer Solar System - the focus of not only the broadest range of investigations in planetary science but also the focus of public attention. The reasons for exploring Titan are threefold:

1. Titan and Astrobiology : Titan ranks with Mars and Europa as a prime body for astrobiological study due to its abundant organics. Like Europa, it may well have a liquid water interior.

2. Titan - A world in its own right. Titan deserves study even only to put other satellites (its remarkably smaller Saturnian siblings, and its same-sized but volatile-poor Jovian counterparts) in context. The added dimension of an atmosphere makes Titan's origin and evolution particularly interesting.

3. Titan - an environmental laboratory for Earth. Titan will be an unrivalled place to investigate meteorological, oceanographical and other processes. Many of these (e.g. wave generation by wind) are only empirically parameterized - the very different physical parameters of the Titan environment will bring new insights to these phenomena.

While Cassini-Huygens will dramatically boost our knowledge of Titan, it will likely only whet our appetite for more. The potential for prebiotic materials at various locations (in particular where liquid water has interacted with photochemical deposits) and the need to monitor Titan's meteorology favor future missions that may exploit Titan's unique thick-atmosphere, low-gravity environment - a mobile platform like an airship or helicopter, able to explore on global scales, but access the surface for in-situ chemical analysis and probe the interior by electromagnetic and seismic means. Such missions have dramatic potential to capture the public's imagination, on both sides of the Atlantic.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: rlorenz@lpl.arizona.edu

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