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Unmanned _ Uranus and Neptune _ Trident, a NASA low cost mission to Triton

Posted by: MarcF Mar 23 2019, 09:22 AM

Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientists proposed a new low cost mission to Triton, to check for the presence of an internal ocean inside the moon.

"Unlike multibillion dollar proposals for spacecraft that the agency has usually sent to the outer solar system, this spacecraft, named Trident, aims to be far less expensive, the mission’s scientists and engineers said, or the price of a small mission to the moon."

To get to Triton, the spacecraft would fly in a fast, straight trajectory after an orbital assist from Jupiter, similar to the flyby that was used by the New Horizons spacecraft to visit Pluto in 2015. It would rely on a payload of scientific instruments to conduct ocean detection and atmospheric and ionospheric science. The spacecraft would photograph the entirety of Triton, which is the largest object in the solar system that has not yet been fully imaged.
Timing is also critical because of the moon’s changing seasons as Neptune makes its orbit around the sun.

“In order to view the plumes that Voyager saw in 1989, we have to encounter Triton before 2040,” said Dr. Mitchell. Otherwise, because of the positions of the objects in their orbits, Triton will not be illuminated again for over eighty years.

Link to original abstract:

Fingers crossed !

Posted by: scalbers Mar 23 2019, 11:16 PM

Interesting - have we past the Triton equinox yet?

Posted by: vjkane Mar 24 2019, 03:01 PM

Here are links to two LPSC 2019 abstracts:

Posted by: titanicrivers Feb 16 2020, 06:10 PM

Here is some news of interest to outer solar system exploration!
NASA has selected four Discovery Program investigations to develop concept studies for new missions. Although they’re not official missions yet and some ultimately may not be chosen to move forward, the selections focus on compelling targets and science that are not covered by NASA’s active missions or recent selections. Final selections will be made next year.

NASA’s Discovery Program invites scientists and engineers to assemble a team to design exciting planetary science missions that deepen what we know about the solar system and our place in it. These missions will provide frequent flight opportunities for focused planetary science investigations. The goal of the program is to address pressing questions in planetary science and increase our understanding of our solar system.

“These selected missions have the potential to transform our understanding of some of the solar system’s most active and complex worlds,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate. “Exploring any one of these celestial bodies will help unlock the secrets of how it, and others like it, came to be in the cosmos.”

Each of the four nine-month studies will receive $3 million to develop and mature concepts and will conclude with a Concept Study Report. After evaluating the concept studies, NASA will continue development of up to two missions towards flight. One of the missions was TRIDENT!

Trident would explore Triton, a unique and highly active icy moon of Neptune, to understand pathways to habitable worlds at tremendous distances from the Sun. NASA’s Voyager 2 mission showed that Triton has active resurfacing generating the second youngest surface in the solar system with the potential for erupting plumes and an atmosphere. Coupled with an ionosphere that can create organic snow and the potential for an interior ocean, Triton is an exciting exploration target to understand how habitable worlds may develop in our solar system and others. Using a single fly-by, Trident would map Triton, characterize active processes, and determine whether the predicted subsurface ocean exists. Louise Prockter of the Lunar and Planetary Institute/Universities Space Research Association in Houston is the principal investigator. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, would provide project management.

Posted by: scalbers Feb 17 2020, 05:48 PM

Apparently the equinox (for most complete viewing) is right about 2040.

Posted by: JRehling Feb 18 2020, 02:21 AM

Triton has a weird (and, of course, very long) "season" but, yes, the sub solar latitude will be nearly equatorial around 2040. It also was just a bit south of equatorial in 1989, so the season will be similar to the Voyager 2 flyby. For the entire time between those, the sub solar latitude has been considerably south and the north polar region has not seen daylight in decades.

As a convenient comparison, the length of a Tritonian day is about the same as on Pluto so one might expect similar coverage of a near-encounter and far-encounter hemisphere to that which New Horizons yielded at Pluto. We could have better luck with neptune-shine images of Triton's sub-Neptunian hemisphere since Neptune is brighter than Charon.

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