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Scientists want to float a boat on Saturn moon Titan

The European Planetary Science Congress considers a proposal to send a boat probe on a visit to a well-known Saturn moon.

The next great space journey? Years ago, NASA's Cassini spacecraft captured this image of a methane lake that a probe may visit one day in the future.

While the Mars rover explores the Red Planet, a group of engineers submitted plans for a new out-of-this-world space mission: landing a boat on the Saturn moon Titan, which NASA, the European Space Agency, and Italian space agency ASI explored in depth over the last decade as part of the Cassini-Huygens mission.

Building on the successful 2005 landing of the Huygens probe on Titan, the new mission would aim to explore and collect data from the weird liquid methane makeup of the lakes found on the Saturn moon's surface. To explore these uncharted methane flows, engineers at the aerospace company Sener -- working in collaboration with Spain's Centro de Astrobiologia -- submitted a proposal last week to the European Planetary Science Congress for a Talise (Titan Lake In-situ Sampling Propelled Explorer) boat probe.

The related proposal suggests several crafts thought suitable for the extraterrestrial area that use large spinning screws, wheels, or a paddle design to navigate Titan's terrain. (Click to enlarge.) europlanet-eu.org

"The main innovation in Talise is the propulsion system," Igone Urdampilleta of Spain-based private engineering firm Sener, a member of the Talise team, said in a statement. "This allows the probe to move, under control, from the landing site in the lake, to the closest shore. The displacement capability would achieve the obtaining of liquid and solid samples from several scientific interesting locations on Titan's surface such as the landing place, along the route towards the shore and finally at the shoreline."

While still a concept at this point, the mission to launch the Titan-bound space boat could last around six months to a year, while the intended landing spot centers around the largest lake on Titan, Ligeia Mare, located near its north pole.