August 21, 2012

The next Mars mission

Titan. (NASA)
There's news about the coming Mars mission. Next time we're going to send something that can bore into the planet to find out what it's made of. Apparently, they'll be able to map out the entire interior in this manner.

That would be interesting. We need answers to certain questions. For instance, why doesn't Mars have a magnetic core, like Earth does? Because of this, Mars isn't protected from radiation and easily loses its atmosphere. Another question is whether Mars has moving continental plates. There have been hints of this, lately. We need these answers.

But there were three candidates for NASA's next mission. They turned down a mission to Titan, Saturn's moon, and chose Mars again. Why? Isn't it time to branch out? The Titan mission would have placed a boat on the surface of one of the methane lakes on its surface. I would love to know more about this planetary body. And hey, it would be completely new information, from a new place. I'm not alone in this feeling:
That's just "too much emphasis on Mars in our current plans for planetary exploration," said Carolyn Porco, a prominent scientist who studies Saturn and its moons. "Most of the solar system resides beyond the orbits of the asteroids. There is more to learn there about general planetary processes than on Mars ... Why more Mars?"
What the heck. I won't toss the upcoming mission in the garbage bin. I want the information it will bring back to us, just as NASA does. But c'mon. Plan something for Titan, guys. Have you seen photos of Titan? It's that lovely orange blur. How can you not want to go there? Titan is so enticing.

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