The secrets of Titan
Today the world’s minds focused on ESA’s tiny probe Huygens, about to start it’s lonely descent into the dense atmosphere of Titan in just a few hours, the most distant landing ever attempted. The data will relayed to NASA’s orbiting spacecraft Cassini and then it takes about one hour for the information to reach Earth. Even though it’s main mission is to analyze the atmosphere composition, Titan being the only moon in the solar system with an atmosphere, the most tickling thought is what will happen when it tries to land on the surface.
Will it crash, burn, freeze or actually send a picture from this distant world, so far unseen by any human eye? Is the surface solid or liquid? Will there be huge craters, vast channels or methane snow in the landscape? Terra incognita, indeed.
As an interesting side note, this wasn’t probably Earth’s first encounter with Titan since the two celestial bodies seems to have clashed earlier. Clash of the titans, indeed.
Another interesting side note was the fact that it will wobble a bit during the descent, thus producing a Doppler effect to the communication waves which made the transmission exceed the narrow receiving spectra (limited due to cost issues, as always). Fortunately, the engineers cleverly found a patch for this problem and took care of the issue (how cool is that, btw?). Why is it that often software engineers have to correct the mistakes created by the hardware engineers?
Launched seven years ago, it is finally Christmas time for the people in Darmstadt. Good luck guys, the world is watching.