Thus we would get images and videos while aloft, and surface analysis while on the ground. The thin atmosphere and even the geysers could be sampled by a Triton Hopper in the same way we have looked at the Enceladus plumes, by passing directly through them.
The NASA precis for Oleson’s Phase II study is here. The Hurford presentation is available as Hurford et al., “Triton’s Fractures as Evidence for a Subsurface Ocean,” Lunar and Planetary Science XLVIII (2017) (full text), but see as well Should we reconsider our view on Neptune’s largest moon? Looking at John Brophy’s Phase II NIAC award reminds us how useful the two-step process can be at clarifying and re-configuring deep space concepts.Tidal stresses therefore provide a mechanism for fracturing and volcanism analogous to activity observed on Enceladus and, possibly, Europa.Given that Triton’s interior has dissipated a tremendous amount of energy as heat, which likely drove differentiation, and that this heat may remain until the present day, an energy source likely exists to drive geologically recent activity.About 50 dark plumes mark what may be ice volcanoes.This version has been rotated 90 degrees counterclockwise and artificially colorized based on another Voyager 2 image. Geologically active places like Triton are intriguing — think of Io and Europa, Enceladus and Titan — and we can add Triton’s nitrogen gas geysers into the mix, along with its tenuous nitrogen atmosphere.Moreover, it is possible that tidal volcanism has facilitated, if not dictated, the expression of this activity on Triton’s surface.Triton’s surface seems to be in geological motion, given how few craters show up in the Voyager views.Also of considerable interest: Triton’s surface deposits of tholins, organic compounds that may be precursor chemicals to the origin of life.Image: Triton’s south polar terrain photographed by the Voyager 2 spacecraft.Be aware, too, of a Phase II grant to Michael Van Woerkom (Exo Terra Resource), who will be studying resource utilization (ISRU) and miniaturization.Van Woerkom’s NIMPH project (Nano Icy Moons Propellant Harvester) will deepen his investigation into mission refueling at destination, producing return propellant on site.