Oct. 8, 2019,
3:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
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 how the building blocks of life are assembled. I will review findings from the epic Cassini-Huygens mission, at Saturn 2004-2017. I will also discuss 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 kilometers 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 2 years.