NASA has recently proposed to send a spacecraft to the largest moon of Neptune, Triton.
Triton – Neptune’s own natural satellite was the first Neptunian moon to be discovered. It was initially discovered in 1846 in the Month of October by the English astronomer William Lassell. Triton is the only moon in the solar system that has a retrograde orbit. A retrograde orbit moves in the direction that is completely opposite to the planet’s rotation. The surface is mostly made up of matter believed to be Nitrogen and has an icy-cold surface. Triton is therefore considered to be the coldest known object in the solar system, with surface temperatures of almost -235°C. Triton is also thought to harbor an ocean which can pave way for new life.
After the confirmation of a pending approval, we might be able to have a glimpse of what the Triton looks like. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory proposed a patent during a conference in Texas with a mission to send a spacecraft named “Trident” to Triton with the motive of finding out whether the Triton is, in fact, a habitable world for the people of the Earth or not.
The last good glimpse we got of Neptune and Triton was during a 1989 flyby of NASA’s Voyager 2 which had to be the very first time any spacecraft had ever done in history. Below is the video of Triton captured by Voyager 2.
Rather than spending billions of dollars on the project, the proposed spacecraft called Trident aims to keep the costs down low and is roughly the “price of a small mission to the moon,” as it is mentioned in the daily report of the New York Times.
“The time is the best now to do it at a low cost,” quoted Louise Prockter at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Texas. Prockter is the director of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston and the principal investigator of the proposed mission to Triton. According to the reports, if the mission to the Triton becomes a successful one and if it gives positive results by proving that new life can be created up there, it will be a huge achievement for us.
The outer solar system routine visits are usually conducted as NASA flagship missions that cost billions of dollars, like the recently concluded Cassini mission to Saturn or the Europa Clipper spacecraft set for launch in the 2020s.
Although these missions produce significant achievements of great importance to mankind, less expensive missions also exist which might add up to the advanced study of planetary science.
On Mars, no single spacecraft was sent to do everything, but in aggregate and over time, the robots sent there revealed the planet’s watery and ocean-like past and set the stage for future astronauts to make a visit and follow up.
Keeping all that aside, let us hope that at least on Triton we find the existence of life in some form.