– Plutonium-powered craft weighs just 120kg
– Moon bigger than ours – and bigger than Mercury
– $715m project would take 3D photos of surface
January 4, 2012
The Aviatr plane looks like the drones that fly over Afghanistan – but the $715 million vehicle is designed to fly over Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, a body that has fascinated scientists because of its thick, cloudy atmosphere.
The Aviatr probe is built to take 3D photos of the surface, to help scientists build up a picture of the planet’s geology.¬†At the end of its mission, the 120kg aircraft would dive down to the surface and attempt a landing on Titan’s dunes.
Scientists believe that Titan is uniquely suited for heavier-than-air craft – the moon’s gravity is relatively low, but its atmosphere is thick, which would mean that a heavier than air craft such as Aviatr could stay airborne for longer.
The moon is thickly shrouded in clouds, and scientists are intrigued about what lies beneath.