DARMSTADT, Germany, Jan. 15 - New pictures of Saturn's moon Titan and other observations show that the Huygens spacecraft landed on a spongy surface like wet sand or soft clay, possibly saturated with liquid methane. The sky was orange, with patches of ground fog. Even the fist-size lumps of ice were a dusty orange. Beyond the site, deep drainage channels appeared to lead to a shoreline in the distance.
But a "shore" to what? Scientists, in their first reports on Saturday on results of the successful Huygens landing, said the flat, dark area beyond the bright drainage terrain might still hold hydrocarbons, presumably methane, that can remain liquid even in Titan's climate of minus 290 degrees Fahrenheit. Or the basins may have been drained empty - a lake that was, and could be again.
"This is a view, an aspect of Titan we had never seen before," Dr. Martin Tomasko of the University of Arizona, leader of the imaging team, said at a news conference here at the European Space Operations Center.
The European-built Huygens descended through the dense atmosphere and touched down on the largest and most mysterious moon of Saturn on Friday. A recording of the sound of Huygens plunging through the ever denser air, as reconstructed from sensor data, was played at the briefing. A pilot on board would have heard the howling of a terrible windstorm and, just before landing, the beat of radar signals searching for the surface.
After a two-and-a-half-hour descent by parachutes, the craft kept sending back science data and images for 1 hour and 10 minutes on the surface - about what scientists had hoped for, but they would have been happy to settle for less. All the sensors for surface studies were reported to have performed normally for the duration of operations.
edit: continued at NY Times site
(edited by NickBockwinkelFan on 16.1.05 1811)
(edited by NickBockwinkelFan on 16.1.05 1815) "Well, you can't involve friendship with business. It has to be one or the other. It's either business or friendship, or hit the bricks!" --Life Lessons from "The Tao of Bobby the Brain Heenan" Uncensored 2000 preview
"As long as the check don't bounce, I guess he's okay with it!" --Former All Pro Giants LB Harry Carson on Bill Parcells joining the hated rival Dallas Cowboys