QUOTE (lilmac @ Jun 25 2012, 10:36 PM)
We know that heat from the Huygens lander vaporized methane, suggesting the craft had landed in a damp area. Might radiant heat pose problems for observations and measurements from future landers? Could we have a scenario where for instance cameras are affected by "steaming" methane? Unlikely? Far-fetched?
Note that methane was not substantially evaporated by the Huygens probe body itself, but by the (deliberately) heated GCMS inlet that was embedded in the ground. However, the highest power density dumped into the surface was the DISR lamp, which put out about 20W onto a small patch of ground. There was no steaming (or even shimmering) detected, although some methane may have condensed on the camera baffle - one of the hundreds of images post-impact shows a feature that can be modeled as a 4mm methane drop about 11cm in front of the lens. Or it could have been a big, wierd, cosmic ray hit.
Rest assured that designers of future missions are alert to such effects. Note that Titan is nothing special in this regard - all
landers introduce perturbations to their environment (Phoenix, Pathfinder and Viking all report winds/temperatures being perturbed from some directions). These effects can be studied and mitigated using modern tools such as Computational Fluid Dynamics.