Ann--I think your post demonstrates the very best thing Design News Daily does--it keeps working non-NASA engineers "in the loop" by detailing fascinating technology. In the NIAC project report, there are twenty-six (26 ) students involved; five (5) schools "state-side" and three (3) schools from various parts of the world. Marvelous collaboration on this one project WITH published papers spreading the information. I hate to admit it but you are absolutely correct in you assessment that manned space flight is probably not on the books for some time to come BUT, un-manned efforts seem to be progressing nicely as demonstrated by your post. This is fascinating technology and obviously cutting-edge. Once again--great information.
Glad you enjoyed this Jim. I find the tensegrity concept fascinating and clever. Steering the spheres from the distance of Titan to Earth is not feasible, so my understand is that these are planned to be autonomous.
Very interesting, thanks Ann. The tensegrity spheres make me think of the little clickety-click spiders in Minority Report (Paramount Pictures, 2002) . I would think these little rovers would have to be entirely autonomous and only report back findings, since attempting to steer them seems unlikely.
NiteOwl, thanks for the balanced commentary. I wish fervently that human exploration of space were possible and feasible. But we are not there yet and until we fix the radiation and life-support issues, not to mention the need for an FTL drive, it's not going to happen.
terminal descent velocity would depend on the object cross-section and the atmospheric density profile. who knows? Titan atmosphere could be pretty thick. I'd be worried about going splat into a mucky surface and becoming stuck in a crater filling up with liquids. But that's the risk you take. Send a few different sizes and hope you get a few good landing spots. The Huygens probe hit the jackpot with that awesome sidelong view. It looked like a long stony beach down there.
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