An experiment by a University of Idaho professor will fly to one of Saturn's moons in 1996.
Dave Atkinson is one of seven American and European researchers to design a device to measure the moon of Titan, the largest of the almost two dozen moons that circle Saturn. The experiment will be launched as part of the six-year Cassini mission, a joint effort of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the European Space Agency.Atkinson's experiment is one of six that will be included in the probe, put together by European Space Agency. The orbiter is being built by NASA. They will be launched together from Cape Canaveral, Fla., atop a Titan IV-Centaur rocket.
It's similar to the Doppler Wind Experiment that was included on the NASA Galileo mission to Jupiter. In both missions, the wind experiment will be on a probe that is released into the atmosphere of the planet it is visiting.
It will be the first mission to Titan, which is covered by a "haze layer, like a Los Angeles smog, so no one's ever seen the surface of the planet," said Atkinson.
Some believe Titan is covered by oceans of liquid methane. The probe will attempt to find out.
The apparatus, hanging from a parachute, will be dropped toward the planet's surface. Scientists will measure the wind speed and direction of the Jupiter and Saturn atmospheres by measuring the amount of "Doppler shift" on radio waves beamed back to the orbiter.
The Doppler shift is what happens to sound waves on Earth when given off by moving objects. When a noise object moves closer to the listener, it sounds high-pitched. When it moves away, the pitch drops.
Experiments on the two probes are "exactly the same, except we're using radio waves instead of sound waves," said Atkinson.