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Guest: Dr. Linda Spilker; Topics; New information on Saturn's ring system, Titan, Enceladus, liquid methane oceans, life, NASA missions and more.
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We welcomed back Dr. Linda Spilker of JPL to discuss the latest findings from the Cassini Mission data I this one segment one hour 17 minute discussion. A good portion of our early discussion focused on Saturn's rings and what we have been learning about them. Our guest talked about the rings and new findings in detail so be sure to pay attention to what she had to say as we are continuing to learn more and more about Saturn's rings and possibly the rings around other planets. Part of this discussion focused not just on other planets with known rings, but the moons of the outer planets in our solar system and possibly outside our solar system. For example, Dr. Spilker talked extensively about Enceladus and Titan, plus the desire to have missions go there for life detection and more. Exomoon came up near the end of the discussion.
Regarding Enceladus and Titan, our guest described the environment of each Moon and why life detection instrumentation on future missions to these moons was essential. Let us know what you think about searching for life on these two moons. Also mentioned was the Saturn hexagon which our guest talked about and described re the north pole of Saturn. Water jets at the South Pole of Enceladus were mentioned along with features on Titan, its atmosphere and the liquid methane oceans under the frozen top later.
A listener asked Dr. Spilker about Cassini's total cost and the ESA share as Carol (the listener) was interested in knowing if the internationals paid meaningful contributions to the planetary missions or were they just making token payments. Don't miss the cost breakdown supplied by our guest.
Dr. Spilker addressed the different types and levels of NASA planetary missions including the Discovery Class Mission, New Frontiers Missions and the Flagship Missions. Linda then pointed out a new Titan paper looking at the north pole tiny lakes ten miles across. Listen to what she had to say about the findings published in this new paper. Linda also brought to our attention the mystery islands of Titan that seemed to just disappear and then come back into sight. Don't miss what she had to say on this topic.
For the later segment of our discussion, I asked our guest about her presentation on the next 50 years of discoveries made for the LPI event earlier this year. Linda spoke to the rate of discovery in the past and compared it to now and the probable rate of discovery going forward 50 years. We talked about the outer planets in the solar system, atmospheres, spectral signatures and more, all based on tools for the future. Linda again went over the different kinds of NASA planetary missions and the costs, plus we talked more about the benefits of international mission participation. Listener Michelle wanted to know if there was a way for taxpayers to have input to the process of selecting missions. Linda said there was and explained the process for both individuals and groups. If you want input, follow Linda's advice as that will help you to be heard by the policy wonks and mission planners.
Before we ended, I asked Linda about future analysis of the Cassini data as new tools, software, and such come on line and are developed. Just how might the existing data reveal even more information in the next 50 years based on new tools of discovery yet to be created. This was a very interesting discussion which you don't want to miss. Part of the discussion focused on both finding exoplanets, developing instruments to learn about their atmosphere and finding exomoons and what that would mean for science and discovery.
Please post your comments/questions on TSS blog for this show. You can reach Dr. Spilker through me or her NASA JPL website page.