NASA wants to send a low-cost mission to explore Neptune's moon Triton

phys.org | 8/22/2014 | Staff
TitanSwimr (Posted by) Level 3
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In the coming years, NASA has some bold plans to build on the success of the New Horizons mission. Not only did this spacecraft make history by conducting the first-ever flyby of Pluto in 2015, it has since followed up on that by making the first encounter in history with a Kuiper Belt object (KBO) – 2014 MU69 (aka Ultima Thule).

Given the wealth of data and stunning images that resulted from these events (which NASA scientists are still processing), other similarly-ambitious missions to explore the outer solar system are being considered. For example, there is the proposal for the Trident spacecraft, a Discovery-class mission that would reveal things about Neptune's largest moon, Triton.

Findings - Lunar - Planetary - Science - Conference

These findings were presented at the 50th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference 2019, which took place from March 19th to 22nd in The Woodlands, Texas. This annual conference allows planetary science specialists from around the world to come together to share mission proposals and the latest results from their respective fields of research.

It was here that Karl L. Mitchell and his colleagues from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI) presented their proposal for a cost-effective flyby mission of Triton. The idea calls for a spacecraft powered by a Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (MMRTG) battery that would fit under the Discovery Program's cost gap.

State - Paper - Mission - Way - Successes

As they state in their paper, this mission would be a cost-effective way to build on the successes of the New Horizons mission:

"New Horizons has effectively demonstrated the scientific value of fast flybys in the outer solar system. Trident's encounter with Triton will be similarly rapid, using remote sensing instruments with large apertures and high angular resolution sensors that operate millions to tens of thousands of kilometers before closest approach. Data is collected over several days around the encounter, and returned...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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