Atkinson, Karl R.; Zarnecki, John C.; Towner, Martin C.; Ringrose, Timothy J.; Hagermann, Axel; Ball, Andrew J.; Leese, Mark R.; Kargl, Gunter; Paton, Mark D.; Lorenz, Ralph D. and Green, Simon F.
Penetrometry of granular and moist planetary surface materials: Application to the Huygens landing site on Titan.
Icarus, 210(2) pp. 843–851.
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The Huygens probe landed on the then unknown surface of Titan in January 2005. A small, protruding penetrometer, part of the Surface Science Package (SSP), was pushed into the surface material measuring the mechanical resistance of the ground as the probe impacted the landing site. We present laboratory penetrometry into room temperature surface analogue materials using a replica penetrometer to investigate further the nature of Titan's surface and examine the sensor's capabilities. The results are then compared to the flight instrument's signature and suggest the Titan surface substrate material consists of sand-sized particles with a mean grain size ~2 mm. A possible thin 7 mm coating with mechanical properties similar to terrestrial snow may overlie this substrate, although due to the limited data we are unable to detect any further layering or grading within the near-surface material. The unusual weakening with depth of the signature returned from Titan has, to date, only been reproduced using a damp sand target that becomes progressively wetter with depth, and supports the suggestion that the surface may consist of a damp and cohesive material with interstitial liquid contained between its grains. Comparison with terrestrial analogues highlights the unusual nature of the landing site material.
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