Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Huygens Lands In Titanian Mud

Date:
January 26, 2005
Source:
European Space Agency
Summary:
Although Huygens landed on Titan's surface on 14 January, activity at ESA's European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany, continues at a furious pace. Scientists are still working to refine the exact location of the probe's landing site.

A view of Huygens probable landing site based on initial, best-guess estimates. Scientists on the Huygens Descent Imager/ Spectral Radiometer (DISR) science team are still working to refine the exact location of the probe's landing site, but they estimate that it lies within the white circle shown in this image.
Credit: s: ESA/NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Although Huygens landed on Titan's surface on 14 January, activity at ESA's European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany, continues at a furious pace. Scientists are still working to refine the exact location of the probe's landing site. While Huygens rests frozen at -180 degrees Celsius on Titan's landscape, a symbolic finale to the engineering and flight phase of this historic mission, scientists have taken little time off to eat or sleep.

They have been processing, examining and analysing data, and sometimes even dreaming about it when they sleep. There's enough data to keep Huygens scientists busy for months and even years to come.

Recreating Huygens' descent profile

One of the most interesting early results is the descent profile. Some 30 scientists in the Descent Trajectory Working Group are working to recreate the trajectory of the probe as it parachuted down to Titan's surface.

The descent profile provides the important link between measurements made by instruments on the Huygens probe and the Cassini orbiter. It is also needed to understand where the probe landed on Titan. Having a profile of a probe entering an atmosphere on a Solar System body is important for future space missions.

After Huygens' main parachute unfurled in the upper atmosphere, the probe slowed to a little over 50 metres per second, or about the speed you might drive on a motorway.

In the lower atmosphere, the probe decelerated to approximately 5.4 metres per second, and drifted sideways at about 1.5 metres per second, a leisurely walking pace.

"The ride was bumpier than we thought it would be," said Martin Tomasko, Principal Investigator for the Descent Imager/Spectral Radiometer (DISR), the instrument that provided Huygens' stunning images among other data.

The probe rocked more than expected in the upper atmosphere. During its descent through high-altitude haze, it tilted at least 10 to 20 degrees. Below the haze layer, the probe was more stable, tilting less than 3 degrees.

Tomasko and others are still investigating the reason for the bumpy ride and are focusing on a suspected change in wind profile at about 25 kilometres altitude.

The bumpy ride was not the only surprise during the descent.

Landing with a splat

Scientists had theorised that the probe would drop out of the haze at between 70 and 50 kilometres. In fact, Huygens began to emerge from the haze only at 30 kilometres above the surface.

When the probe landed, it was not with a thud, or a splash, but a 'splat'. It landed in Titanian 'mud'.

"I think the biggest surprise is that we survived landing and that we lasted so long," said DISR team member Charles See. "There wasn't even a glitch at impact. That landing was a lot friendlier than we anticipated."

DISR's downward-looking High Resolution Imager camera lens apparently accumulated some material, which suggests the probe may have settled into the surface. "Either that, or we steamed hydrocarbons off the surface and they collected onto the lens," said See.

"The probe's parachute disappeared from sight on landing, so the probe probably isn't pointing east, or we would have seen the parachute," said DISR team member Mike Bushroe.

When the mission was designed, it was decided that the DISR's 20-Watt landing lamp should turn on 700 metres above the surface and illuminate the landing site for as long as 15 minutes after touchdown.

"In fact, not only did the landing lamp turn on at exactly 700 metres, but also it was still shining more than an hour later, when Cassini moved beyond Titan's horizon for its ongoing exploratory tour of the giant moon and the Saturnian system," said Tomasko.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by European Space Agency. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

European Space Agency. "Huygens Lands In Titanian Mud." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 January 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/01/050125091156.htm>.
European Space Agency. (2005, January 26). Huygens Lands In Titanian Mud. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/01/050125091156.htm
European Space Agency. "Huygens Lands In Titanian Mud." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/01/050125091156.htm (accessed July 23, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks from Space Station

Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks from Space Station

AP (July 22, 2014) A Russian Soyuz cargo-carrying spacecraft undocked from the International Space Station on Monday. The craft is due to undergo about ten days of engineering tests before it burns up in the Earth's atmosphere. (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong

NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong

AP (July 21, 2014) NASA honored one of its most famous astronauts Monday by renaming a historic building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It now bears the name of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. (July 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Newsy (July 19, 2014) Neil Armstrong gained international fame after becoming the first man to walk on the moon in 1969. But what was his life like after the historic trip? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
This Week @ NASA, July 18, 2014

This Week @ NASA, July 18, 2014

NASA (July 18, 2014) Apollo 11 yesterday, Next Giant Leap tomorrow, Science instruments for Europa mission, and more... Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins