NASA Plans to Explore Neptune’s Moon Triton

NASA plans to investigate the most distant site yet, Neptune‘s moon known as Triton, in a mission dubbed Trident.  

The space agency’s ‘tree-prolonged’ aims to examine the magnetic field of the moon in order to find out whether there is an ocean underneath its surface. NASA has also announced that it intends to map the entire surface map of the moon to allegedly estimate plume activity.  

NASA’s Trident Mission  

Two concept studies will be selected during next year’s summer, and the launch is set to take place in October 2025. According to NASA, analyzing Triton’s weird behavior could be useful as it orbits against Neptune’s direction.  

This particular moon has ten times more active ionosphere than other moons in the Solar System while its surface renews, but scientists do not know yet what causes the plumes. Trident could provide numerous pieces of information to fill in the gaps in our knowledge, because Voyager 2 was only able to capture about 40 percent of the moon when it passed by it on its way to the outskirts of the Solar System, approximately 30 years ago.  

Still, the data will allegedly take a while before it becomes available, NASA said. Neptune is about 2.8 billion miles away from Earth, and Trident is not expected to get to Triton until 2038. Voyager 2 was only able to fly past Neptune three decades ago, which made it the only spacecraft to have captured and sent to Earth images of the planet 

Voyager had unveiled extremely massive dark plumes of an icy material coming out from Triton’s surface, and scientists were kept questioning how an ancient moon could still be active, besides being six times farther from the Sun than Jupiter.  

Planet Neptune. [Image: NASA]
Now, NASA’s Discovery Program’s new expedition intends to reveal the mysteries behind these activities.  

A Unique Object  

Trident is one of four missions that is creating concept studies for new expeditions, but only two will be selected as programs later on. The mission will examine how Triton has evolved over time, as well as its peculiar behaviors, such as rotating against the direction of Neptune and its orbit location, which is tilted by 23 degrees from Neptune’s equator.  

Dr. Louise Prockter, a space research association director at Lunar and Planetary Universities, said: “Triton has always been one of the most exciting and intriguing bodies in the solar system.”  

Prokter will lead the chosen Trident mission, which will be managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, based in Southern California. The scientist also mentioned Voyager’s images of Triton and ‘their tantalizing glimpses of this bizarre, crazy moon that no one understands.’  

JPL Trident project scientist Karl Mitchell said that although Triton is indeed weird, it is ‘relevantly weird.’  

“We know the surface has all these features we’ve never seen before, which motivates us to want to know ‘How does this world work?'” Mitchell said.  

As noted in the mission proposal, Mitchell said Triton is not only an important part in the Solar System science, but it also captured the developed Kuiper Belt, an ocean with active plumes, a changing ionosphere, and a unique surface. 

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