Welcome to Titan

1 minute read
Elizabeth Woyke

Forty-eight years after mankind’s first forays into space, the toxic orange haze covering Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, has finally been penetrated. Ending a seven-year, 3.5 billion-kilometer voyage, the Huygens probe touched down on Titan last week, giving earthbound gawkers their first glimpse of its icy surface. Early transmissions from the 350-kg probe revealed a smog-shrouded landscape of boulder-strewn plains, winding drainage channels, and dark pools that may contain liquid hydrocarbon. While it remains unclear whether the Huygens data on Titan, which has been likened to a frozen version of early Earth, can help answer the eternal question of how life evolved, scientists involved in the $3.3 billion joint effort between NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and Italy’s space program (ASI) were ecstatic at the probe’s successful landing. “It is a fascinating world,” said Professor David Southwood, ESA’s Director of science, “and we are now eagerly awaiting the scientific results.”

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