If you have dreamt of an interplanetary second home in the solar system, you probably would have thought of inhabiting Mars. The red planet has always fascinated us for thousands of years, as space giants NASA and several other companies have been attempting to colonize its territory.
Interestingly, there are several moons throughout the solar system that appear to harbor existential characteristics, with signs of liquid water being present, hydrocarbon lakes and seas, that could at least support life in the microbe form. Whether we want to launch more missions for confirming livable conditions on our neighboring and distant planets or set up full-fledged ruling colonies, let’s see which out of many other habitable moons can be closest to supporting our manned mission. The scientist community says that looking at it ecologically, the habitat that human beings need for survival can closely be replicated in Titan’s composition.
Titan, the largest moon of the ringed planet Saturn could be the only place in the Solar System where it makes sense to construct a self-sufficient and sustainable settlement. In spite of the discoveries that mark Titan’s temperature to be hanging around -300° Fahrenheit, its skies rain gases like ethane and methane that flow into its massive hydrocarbon lakes and seas. It’s very cold out there. The very thought of it may sound absurd, yet latest scientific findings reveal such potential credibility.
Presence of liquid on Titan’s surface that fill its swamps and lakes of methane and ethane, closely resemble water bodies on Earth. The dunes of solid hydrocarbons on Titan look much like the sand dunes that cover our deserts. As compared to the Earth’s atmosphere, Titan has a 50% thicker nitrogen atmosphere ready to protect its habitats from radiation. Despite strikingly cold temperature, you may survive with warm clothing and respirators, thanks to its blanket atmosphere. You may feel that you are freezing, but your lungs can cope with air as cold as -80°Celsius. Rest you can ensure survival by using Silicon Aerogel and wearing a helmet.
Its atmosphere lacks oxygen, but the water ice below the surface could possibly be used to generate oxygen for breathing. The enormous quantities of hydrocarbons in solid and liquid can be readily used as sources of energy such as com-busting hydrocarbon to produce fuel. In addition to the atmosphere, Saturn’s magnetosphere also provides for shelter. Throwing around your imagination will allow you the possibilities to fancy huge indoor spaces owing to the ease of construction. Houses here could be built with plastic produced from resources harvested on Titan’s surface and masqueraded with oxygen and nitrogen domes. Its constitution is 95% nitrogen, 5% methane and most of the remaining is hydrocarbon. Tough over exposure to methane could pose minor health risks; most of these gases are not toxic.
Terminal velocity on Titan is 1/10th of that found on our own planet. So if you wish to fly, the weak gravity on Titan like that of the Moon coupled with the thick atmosphere will allow easy aviation with wings on your back. Moreover, landing owing to the velocity will be smooth as well, in case your wings fail you the flight.
Till date, most researchers have looked at Moon or Mars as closest to human in-habitation, also considering the fact that they are located in relatively closer proximity than Saturn. However, unlike Saturn neither Moon nor Mars is protected by a magnetosphere or atmosphere. Secondly, Mercury and Venus, closest to Earth are not naturally equipped to support or sustain life because of their challenging physical conditions like extreme temperatures.
Unlike Mars, Saturn does not emit hazardous radiation that can cause cancer in human bodies. The estimated radiation from Galactic Cosmic Rays (GCR) on the surface of Mars is much higher. If life ever evolves on Mars, it may still exist below the ground, as the GCR dose is lesser there, shielding from radiation and related oxidants.
With an atmospheric pressure of around 1.5 bar and probable water under its surface, Titan can support human colonies. Mars looks drier, while on Titan, you could probably navigate Saturn’s rings on a hydrogen balloon or meander along its methane filled rivers.
To survive, human body needs food. The nuclear powered lights derived from sunshine could be used to produce your own food. Though Titan’s surface receives 1/1000 of Earth’s surface light, further research may bring out better workable solutions.
Can’t say whether Titan will be the best place beyond Earth to colonize, but quite likely in future we resort to inhabiting the ringed planet’s Moon that our own. If we are ready to excavate heavy elements from its core or import mines from other bodies, Titan could become home away from home. These great discoveries, however, couldn’t have been possible without the Cassini-Huygens mission, thanks to its healthy and glorious survival close to a score, steering distant information from Saturn and its Moon’s to our planet. All we need is faster propulsion to get there, as currently it takes about seven years to reach.
Article by Rochita.