Wanna go to Titan? May 12, 2019 16:26:31 GMT -5
Post by Radrook Admin on May 12, 2019 16:26:31 GMT -5
Wanna go to Titan?
Ever since I saw the photos of Saturn’s moon Titan taken by the Cassini Probe, I have wondered when we are going to start exploring such a fascinating world by sending rovers as we did with Mars. After all, not only is it the largest moon of Saturn, but it is also the only other body known in our solar system to have permanent bodies of liquid on the surface, and the only moon known to have a thick atmosphere.
In fact, its atmosphere is one-and-a-half times thicker than our Earth’s, so thick in fact, that it might even make muscle-powered human flight possible. So if flying like a bird is one of your dreams, maybe you can realize it on Titan. It is also similar to Earth’s because it is nitrogen-based. Specifically 98.4% nitrogen with the remaining 1.6% composed mostly of methane (1.4%) and hydrogen.
It was this thick orange atmosphere that prevented us from seeing Titan's surface. So for a long time, all we could do was theorize about what existed below. But all that changed when the Cassini probe dipped below those clouds and landed on the moon itself. That’s when the images hit us like a bolt of lightning. There they were, earth-like river shores and river beds with tributaries running from adjacent or nearby mountain ranges. In fact, the whole Titan panorama could have been confused with a scene on Earth.
Then huge lakes similar in size to the Great Lakes in North America on the Canadian USA border as well as 300-foot-high sand-dunes, whose size puts most of Earth's sand-dunes to shame, were revealed in all their splendor. A real-world just beckoning for us to explore it. Which of course, makes us wonder if it is indeed as benevolently inviting as it looks. Well, that's when we get a kick in the proverbial teef. You see, even though Titan seems inviting to colonization because of the way it mimics earth-like features such as lakes, river tributaries, sand dunes, and rains, a closer inspection is a bit sobering.
Let’s take a closer look.
To begin with, the lakes are composed of methane. So if you were planning on going scuba-diving, think again. If planning to frolic in its rain, please be aware that it is also methane.
Then there is the extreme cold. Do you consider Antarctica’s coldest-135.6 F cold? Well, on Titan it gets to be a whopping −290.2 °F), So you better bundle up if you don’t want to wind up being involuntarily cryogenically preserved for posterity. Remember, the coldest it gets on Mars is approx. a mere -180F. So this moon isn’t kidding around.
Then there is the generation of electricity via solar cells problem. Sunlight has a very hard time reaching the surface of Titan due to the thick atmosphere. So it’s an atmosphere makes the use of solar power impossible and insulation from the cold far more difficult than in a vacuum due to heat dissipation.
Then we have the problem of the low surface gravity of 0.138 g, slightly less than that of the Moon. This means that there are health risks involved, such as skeletal calcium leakage and gradual muscular atrophy. So you better be prepared to do exercises while you shiver.
Now, this is a real humdinger. They just recently noticed that certain land features on Titan are in the habit of disappearing and reappearing at another geographical location. It's as if they had sprouted legs and taken off. One landmark swiveled 40 miles in a very short period of time. That makes navigation to a specific place a bit uncertain since you never know when the place you just left behind will decide to skedaddle and leave you up the proverbial river without a paddle. The problem is that the Titan crust is sitting on a vast ocean and isn't anchored down. High winds hit the mountains that serve like sails and voila! Moving terrain! It seems far-fetched but that's the explanation NASA provided.
Distance from Earth:
Also to take into serious consideration if you value your sanity, before happily embarking on your journey, is the great distance you will have to travel. Which of course means being packed like a sardine for the full duration of the trip. You see you will have to go past the orbit of Mars, beyond the orbit of the asteroid belt, past the orbit of Jupiter in order to finally intercept Saturn and access Titan. That's a distance of 7 AU, from the Earth when the two are at their closest approach to one another and 11 AU, from each other when they are at their most distant. An AU is a distance from Earth to the Sun which is approx. 93 million miles.
Remember, the Cassini space probe was launched on Oct 15, 1997. It arrived at Saturn about 6 & 3/4 years later, on July 1, 2004. Almost four years cooped up in a sardine can is capable of transforming a person with a saintly personality into a Mr. Hyde.
But hey! It’s not all gloom and tears. Let’s look at the bright side.
Unlike Venus, whose atmosphere will crush you, Titan’s atmosphere is tolerable without a spacesuit. It also provides complete protection against space radiation and meteoroids and is very useful for braking or slowing down a spacecraft during a landing. Compare that to Mars where you would be exposed to death-dealing radiation and getting obliterated at any moment by a meteorite as well as the terrifying struggle involved in braking the spacecraft by using that thin Martian atmosphere. Also, the Nitrogen in Titan's atmospheres can be used as plant fertilizer.
Water and oxygen? No problemo! Cryovolcanism will provide water with which to make breathable oxygen.
Still wanna go to Titan? Eh?