WEST MIFFLIN PROBE BEATS NASA/ESA TO TITAN
(JDH Newswire) Several weeks ago, a small probe launched from
Southwestern Pennsylvania arrived at the moon of Saturn named Titan.
Titan has been of interest to scientists because it has an interesting
atmosphere probably containing organic materials associated with the
generation and support of life. Later this year, NASA and the European
Space Agency (ESA) have the combined Cassini/Huygens probe arriving at
Saturn and its moon Titan. The NASA Cassini probe will orbit Saturn and
throughout its moon system to investigate both Saturn and its moons.
The ESA Huygens probe will investigate Titan more intensively by
descending through the atmosphere of Titan and possibly landing. The
Huygens probe is designed to gather and send data during the descent
since there are many uncertainties about the surface and landing.
The West Mifflin probe has proven an acceptable landing is attainable.
It landed on Friday May 28, 2004, 04:56:47 GMT. This probe has very
limited instrumentation and was mainly intended for proof of concept,
using Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) technology, including
recycled items. The COTS technology has been the cause for delay in
starting significant communications. Although lacking in
instrumentation, The probe has cameras and is now returning pictures.
The first photo shows the rover on a flat-looking but hard rock-like
plain approaching what appears to be a snow-like material. NASA and
other scientist have conjectured that methane and ethane probably exist
on Titan in liquid and solid forms including "snow". The somewhat
regularly shaped cracks filled with a material different from the flat
rocks are a mystery, reminiscent of the "canali" on Mars.
The second photo shows the mother ship which remains high up in the
atmosphere using the balloon concept. Obviously some parts of this
recycled equipment are not used such as the cupola. This unit also
suffers from a lack of instrumentation. Note the haziness and
coloration due to the organics in the atmosphere.
In the next photo, we see the Titan probe has deployed its flag. It
appears to be approaching a crevasse filled with another type of
material not previously encountered.
In the last three photos, the probe is maneuvering through a field of
the snow-like substance and rock-like outcroppings are occasionally
The Titan probe is from West Mifflin, Pennsylvania. Appropriately, The
West Mifflin School District moniker is the Titans. (End)