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Could a spacecraft orbiting Saturn, like Cassini, use a Titan gravity assist to leave the Saturn system (e.g. to bring a sample back to Earth), without using fuel other than to reach Titan?

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  • $\begingroup$ How should a sample collected from an orbit around Saturn? $\endgroup$ – Uwe Aug 29 '17 at 17:57
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    $\begingroup$ @Uwe From the plumes of Enceladus (like Stardust). From flying through Titan's upper atmosphere (like Maven). By touching down on microgravity moons such as Pan (like Hayabusa). And maybe picking up a few ring particles. The Saturn system is a smorgasbord for sampling without landing or entering any gravity well. other than Saturn's. So I wonder if Titan could eject such samples, or say Cassini, back to Earth for free. $\endgroup$ – LocalFluff Aug 29 '17 at 18:54
  • $\begingroup$ Related: space.stackexchange.com/questions/22737/… $\endgroup$ – Hobbes Aug 29 '17 at 19:30
  • $\begingroup$ "Escape Saturn" and "Enter return trajectory to Earth" are two goals separated by a rather significant delta-V cost. $\endgroup$ – SF. Aug 29 '17 at 21:15
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You'd need to get to Jupiter to get an assist to Earth. It might be possible. See Saturn Escape Options for Cassini Encore Missions and Cassini End-of-Life Escape Trajectories to the Outer Planets. You can certainly escape Saturn with multiple Titan flybys. Getting to Jupiter is trickier, and requires the right timing and a lot of patience. Low-energy Saturn-Jupiter transits are available about every 20 Earth years.

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  • $\begingroup$ Why would one have to go via Jupiter back to Earth? Why not directly Saturn-Earth? $\endgroup$ – LocalFluff Aug 29 '17 at 21:38
  • $\begingroup$ You're just not going to be able to get that much change in velocity from Titan. $\endgroup$ – Mark Adler Aug 30 '17 at 0:17
  • $\begingroup$ I love these high-density, concise answers! I can't see the paper through the paywall right now, would this paper do in a pinch? yellowdragonblogdotcom.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/… $\endgroup$ – uhoh Aug 30 '17 at 1:20
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    $\begingroup$ That's the second link already in the answer. $\endgroup$ – Mark Adler Aug 30 '17 at 1:35
  • $\begingroup$ I am in denial that I need (to go find my) glasses - didn't recognize the unhilighted (unhighlit?) "and" between the two links. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Sep 2 '17 at 11:40

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