PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS LECTURE WILL BE TAKING PLACE ON A WEDNESDAY EVENING.
Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, is a world with a dense atmosphere, abundant complex organic material on its icy surface, and a liquid-water ocean in its interior. The joint NASA-ESA Cassini-Huygens mission revealed Titan to be surprisingly Earth-like, with active geological processes and opportunities for organic material to have mixed with liquid water on its surface in the past. These attributes make Titan a singular destination to seek answers to fundamental questions about what makes a planet or moon habitable and about the pre-biotic chemical processes that led to the development of life on Earth.
Drs. Elizabeth Turtle and Ralph Lorenz of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, will present an overview of Titan and of NASA’s upcoming New Frontiers mission, Dragonfly. This ambitious mission will send a rotorcraft that will take advantage of Titan’s atmosphere and low gravity to fly from place to place to measure the detailed compositions of Titan’s surface materials and observe its geology and meteorology in situ. Traveling over 100km during its two-year mission, Dragonfly will explore landing sites in diverse geological settings to investigate the chemistry and habitability of this fascinating extra-terrestrial environment.
Dr Elizabeth (Zibi) Turtle is a planetary scientist at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. Her research combines remote-sensing observations and modeling of geological structures and their implications for planetary surfaces, interiors, and their evolution, including impact cratering and tectonics on satellites and terrestrial planets, and lakes and seasonal weather on Titan. She has participated in the Galileo, Cassini-Huygens, and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter missions, and is the Principal Investigator for the Europa Imaging System (EIS) on Europa Clipper and for the Dragonfly Titan New Frontiers mission. She earned her PhD in Planetary Sciences from University of Arizona and her BS in Physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
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 centered on Titan, Cassini-Huygens and future missions there, but his interests 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 as well as over 200 publications in refereed and popular journals.