Exploring Titan with Cassini/Huygens and Dragonfly by Dr. Ralph Lorenz

Speaker: Dr. Ralph Lorenz 
Date: 21st January 2020
Start Time: 19:00
End Time: 20:30
Venue: BIS, 27/29 South Lambeth Road, Vauxhall, London, SW8 1SZ

Saturn’s giant moon Titan has been revealed to be remarkably Earth-like, with a landscape of vast dunefields, river channels and lakes under a smoggy sky punctuated by methane downpours.

Titan serves as a frigid laboratory in which the same processes that shape our own planet can be seen in action under exotic conditions. Titan has a rich inventory of complex organic molecules that may provide clues to how the building blocks of life are assembled. Dr. Ralph Lorentz will review findings from the epic Cassini-Huygens mission, at Saturn 2004-2017. Also to be discussed are the prospects for future exploration: NASA recently announced the selection of the JHU Applied Physics Lab’s Dragonfly concept for the next New Frontiers mission.

Dragonfly will launch in 2026, to arrive in 2034: it is a rotorcraft lander, able to repeatedly take off and fly tens of kilometres in Titan’s dense atmosphere and low gravity to sample the surface composition in a wide range of geological settings. Initially landing in the dunefields nearby, it will traverse to the 80km Selk impact crater, making geomorphological, meteorological and even seismological investigations over more than two years. 

 

About the Speaker: 

Dr. Ralph Lorenz worked as an engineer for the European Space Agency on the design of the Huygens probe to Titan, and as a planetary scientist at the University of Arizona, and since 2006, at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab.  His activities have centred on Cassini-Huygens and future missions to Titan (he played a central role in formulating the Dragonfly mission), but his interests also include Mars, dust devils, sand dunes, planetary climate and landscape, and aerospace systems.

He is author or co-author of several books including ‘Lifting Titan’s Veil’,’Spinning Flight’, and ‘Space Systems Failures’, and the Cassini-Huygens Owners Workshop Manual by Haynes as well as over 200 publications in refereed and popular journals.

 

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