When I think about worlds humanity may visit before I die none of them stand out to me like the two moons Enceladus and Titan.
Of course these two moons today are amazing in and of themselves but I envision them being even grander. For the purpose of time and space (pun intended) I will focus on Titan in this article.
Titan is the sixth moon from Saturn, it’s bigger than our Moon (and Mercury!) and it has a dense atmosphere (uncommon for a moon). It has been explored in 2004 by the Cassini Huygens’ probe, being minus 180 C it is composed mostly of frozen water ice and rock, and the atmosphere is mostly nitrogen.
Titan was discovered in 1655 by Christiaan Huygens a Dutch astronomer. I’m glad the name was changed from its first name, a boring one, Saturni Luna. Titan, or Saturn VI, is 3,021 miles in diameter and scientists conclude that half of the moon is composed of water ice and other half of rock.
What intrigues me more than Titan’s history is its atmosphere. It is 98.4% nitrogen. That is very intriguing. Our own atmosphere on Earth is 78% nitrogen and 21% oxygen. If any celestial body comes to mind for terraforming it is Titan. That gas composition makes it much easier, in theory, to change than Venus or Mars. Just think, if we were to introduce vast amounts of water ice and O2 we could be looking at Terra 2.0.
Titan also offers potential for a future colony for Earth because it is a prebiotic environment. This is to say it could support life if the chemistry of the planet were altered enough in the future.The methane lakes on Titan are an example of possible pre-life condition pools. There’s already talk of exploring the liquid oceans on Titan via a submarine. We MUST know what the conditions for life are and how they could become more suitable to Earth-like conditions.
This is where human intervention comes in. With superior technology in the future we could found a colony on Titan. We could harvest water from the many cryovolcanoes on Enceladus or from the various icy rocks in Saturn’s rings. For heat we could tap into the rocky core of Titan and we’d need generators to produce artificial sunlight for plants (mosses and lichens first). To raise the temperature and introduce more oxygen we could bombard the moon with ice comets and monitor progress from space probes.
Of course this is decades, if not centuries, ahead of where we are now. Nonetheless I would be ecstatic to see a new world become habitable.
Imagine a beautiful watery word with beautiful skies and a large Saturn rising and setting. One day. One day.
Thanks for reading.
Feltman, R. (2016, August 11). Saturn’s moon Titan has deep canyons flooded with liquid methane. Retrieved September 27, 2016, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2016/08/11/saturns-moon-titan-has-deep-canyons-flooded-with-liquid-methane/
Hydrogen cyanide on Titan key to possible prebiotic conditions. (2016, July 07). Retrieved September 27, 2016, from http://www.astrobio.net/also-in-news/hydrogen-cyanide-titan-key-possible-prebiotic-conditions/ Source: Cornell University
Schneider, J. M. (2016, August 30). NASA is designing a submarine that could explore the methane lakes of Titan — Saturn’s largest moon. Retrieved September 27, 2016, from http://news.nationalpost.com/news/world/nasa-is-designing-a-submarine-that-could-explore-the-methane-lakes-of-titan-saturns-largest-moon