GEOS204: Life, the Universe and Everything
ASSIGNMENT 2 (2016) – Lander Project
Lander Project (1500 words minimum, maximum 3000)
25% of final course mark
Due: Friday 20th May 2016, 17:00 (Week 10)
Objectives for the assignment
After this assignment you will have:
Learnt how to search for and download scientific papers,
Gained specific knowledge on the moon Titan, methods for reaching it using a
lander and methods for analysing samples on it to look for life,
Gained insights into aspects of the scientific method,
Developed your evaluation techniques and critical reviewing strategies,
Developed your writing and referencing skills.
To propose a search site for life on Titan, one of the moons of Saturn, and plan an
unmanned landing mission. Extra marks will be awarded for the originality of your
proposal, including the design for the lander. Write an essay IN YOUR OWN WORDS on
your chosen site and include your suggestion for the nature of the mission and the type of
scientific experiments to be conducted on the mission. The mission will not be a “sample
return mission”, ie the analyses you plan will have to be done on the surface of the moon.
The report should include the following four main topics:
Science aims and strategy
Sampling and analysis techniques
Use these topics as main headings. Include a discussion and evaluation of:
Science aims and strategy – Basically, a proposal justification.
• What is the aim of this proposal?
• What previous exploration has been carried out?
• What information suggests that Titan is a possible place to harbour / have
• What is the probability of occurrence of ancient or extant life?
Geology - You may use information and images from recent space missions to help you
with this section. You need to select an approximate position on Titan for your landing
mission. Include discussion of:
The overall geology of Titan,
The general geology of the chosen site,
The type of site and evidence for its interpretation as such (e.g. lake bed, palaeosea, palaeo-hydrothermal deposit, etc...),
Nature of expected evidence for life (chemical, morphological, etc...).
Logistics – You may look at past or planned landing missions on other planets or moons
to get ideas, but your concept for the lander should be your own design. Do not copy and
paste images or data from existing web sites – this would be plagiarism and will score zero
for the assignment. You may include hand-drawn sketches or your own computergenerated sketches. Include discussion of:
Topography of the selected region,
Engineering requirements/landing access, including how to land the lander and the
nature of the access once on the surface (e.g. lander & rover, just lander, or
If using a rover, discuss the travel capabilities of the rover.
Note, you do NOT need to cover the logistics of the space flight from Earth to
Titan, just start this section with the descent from orbit around Titan.
Sampling and Detection Techniques – You may utilise some existing small, lightweight
instrumentation used on existing missions. However, you must explain why this is suitable
for your mission and explain how it will be integrated into and operate with YOUR lander.
Include discussion of:
GEOS204 Assignment 2 (2016) – Lander Project
Nature of experiments to be carried out (this is not a sample return mission, so all
experiments will have to be carried out as part of this mission).
The report on the project will be 1500 words minimum, maximum 3000.
Include relevant maps, diagrams and figures. You may also include data in any other
format suited to your proposal. All sources must be fully referenced. See the unit handout,
especially for advice on how to properly reference web sites. The report must be typed,
but can include hand-drawn sketches.
Note: All sources of data MUST be referenced. Not doing so is plagiarism and will
result in zero marks.
Marking scheme (out of 20):
Science aims and strategy, and proposal justification
Understanding of the geology of the moon
Understanding and justification of the logistics involved
Choice and justification of sampling and detection techniques 5*
Spelling / grammar and presentation/essay structure
* To score top marks on these three, you need to demonstrate plenty of in-depth research
on the topic.
Handing in: Please submit this assignment electronically to turnitin. Please note: There
is no need to hand a physical copy of the assignment in.
The following web sites may be helpful:
NASA Solar System Exploration:
NASA Mars Exploration Homepage:
Beagle 2 Mission Homepage:
ESA Mars Express:
NASA PDS imaging node:
NASA Cassini Equinox Mission to Saturn and surrounds http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/
NASA Galileo Journey to Jupiter:
Jules Verne Voyager:
GEOS204 Assignment 2 (2016) – Lander Project
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