While I took my little "blog holiday" in January important things were happening on the Titan exploration front. First, on January 15th the little Huygens probe successfully entered Titan's atmosphere and made a crash landing, transmitting video and sound along the way (via Cassini). The European Space Agency website has a bunch of great pictures, including the one at right, of a 440km crater. Yes, that's big, imagine the object which created it!
In other big news, SpaceX's Merlin rocket engine was fired for 160 seconds, the time required to boost their Falcon rocket into orbit. They're in the hunt for "America's Space Prize", a $50M bounty for the first private spaceflight which takes five people into Earth orbit. As I've pointed out before, it takes 25 times the energy to reach orbit as it does to reach "space", so this will be quite an accomplishment. That's their engine test rig at left. I think SpaceX or companies like them will be my best bet to visit Titan.
Check out the Time Magazine cover at right, from December 1952, featuring a landing on Titan. (Click for larger view.) I love it. The subtitle is "will man outgrow the Earth", a subject for speculation 50 years ago as it is today. Here's the cover story blurb:
Awesome! [ via Mark Frauenfelder ]