Projects per year
Saturn׳s moons, Titan and Enceladus, are two of the Solar System׳s most enigmatic bodies and are prime targets for future space exploration. Titan provides an analogue for many processes relevant to the Earth, more generally to outer Solar System bodies, and a growing host of newly discovered icy exoplanets. Processes represented include atmospheric dynamics, complex organic chemistry, meteorological cycles (with methane as a working fluid), astrobiology, surface liquids and lakes, geology, fluvial and aeolian erosion, and interactions with an external plasma environment. In addition, exploring Enceladus over multiple targeted flybys will give us a unique opportunity to further study the most active icy moon in our Solar System as revealed by Cassini and to analyse in situ its active plume with highly capable instrumentation addressing its complex chemistry and dynamics. Enceladus׳ plume likely represents the most accessible samples from an extra-terrestrial liquid water environment in the Solar system, which has far reaching implications for many areas of planetary and biological science. Titan with its massive atmosphere and Enceladus with its active plume are prime planetary objects in the Outer Solar System to perform in situ investigations. In the present paper, we describe the science goals and key measurements to be performed by a future exploration mission involving a Saturn–Titan orbiter and a Titan balloon, which was proposed to ESA in response to the call for definition of the science themes of the next Large-class mission in 2013. The mission scenario is built around three complementary science goals: (A) Titan as an Earth-like system; (B) Enceladus as an active cryovolcanic moon; and (C) Chemistry of Titan and Enceladus – clues for the origin of life. The proposed measurements would provide a step change in our understanding of planetary processes and evolution, with many orders of magnitude improvement in temporal, spatial, and chemical resolution over that which is possible with Cassini–Huygens. This mission concept builds upon the successes of Cassini–Huygens and takes advantage of previous mission heritage in both remote sensing and in situ measurement technologies.