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Colonization of Titan

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« on: June 21, 2007, 01:39:52 am »

Saturn's moon Titan in natural color.

Colonization of Titan
Saturn's moon Titan in natural color.Studies indicate that the most important and advantageous target in the outer solar system for colonization may be Titan[citation needed]. Astronautical and nuclear engineer Robert Zubrin identified Saturn, Uranus and Neptune as "the Persian Gulf of the solar system", as the largest sources of deuterium and helium-3 to drive the pending fusion economy. [1] The Jupiter system is the least likely to be developed for collecting resources from a gas giant, because of its extraordinary radiation belt. In particular, Dr. Zubrin identified Saturn as the most important and most valuable of the three, because of its relative proximity, low radiation, and excellent system of moons. He also named Titan as the most important moon on which to establish a base to develop the resources of the Saturn system.
Raw materials

Dr. Zubrin has pointed out that Titan possesses an abundance of all the elements necessary to support life, saying "In certain ways, Titan is the most hospitable extraterrestrial world within our solar system for human colonization." [2] The atmosphere contains plentiful nitrogen and methane, and strong evidence indicates that liquid methane, liquid water, and ammonia are present under the surface and are often delivered to the surface by volcanic activity. Water can easily be used to generate breathable oxygen. Nitrogen is ideal to add buffer gas partial pressure to breathable air. [3] Water and methane can be used to produce rocket propellant and fuel for a power supply. Nitrogen, methane and ammonia can all be used to produce fertilizer for growing food.


Additionally, Titan has an atmospheric pressure one and a half times that of Earth -- approximately the same as 5 meters underwater on Earth. This means that the interior air pressure of landing craft and habitats could be set equal or close to the exterior pressure, reducing the difficulty and complexity of structural engineering for landing craft and habitats compared with low or zero pressure environments such as on the Moon, Mars, or the asteroids. The thick atmosphere would also make radiation a non-issue, unlike on the Moon, Mars, or the asteroids. On the other hand, Titan's atmosphere contains hydrogen cyanide, and is extremely toxic for humans: even small amounts are enough to cause death.


Titan has a surface gravity of 0.14 g, slightly less than that of the Moon. Managing long-term effects of low gravity on human health would therefore be a significant issue for long-term occupation of Titan, more so than on Mars. These effects are still an active field of study. They can include symptoms such as loss of bone density, loss of muscle density, and a weakened immune system. Astronauts in Earth orbit have remained in microgravity for up to a year and more at a time. Effective countermeasures for the negative effects of low gravity are well-established, particularly an aggressive regimen of daily physical exercise. The variation in the negative effects of low gravity as a function of different levels of low gravity are not known, since all research in this area is restricted to humans in zero gravity. The same goes for the potential effects of low gravity on fetal and pediatric development. It has been hypothesized that children born and raised in low gravity such as on Titan would not be well adapted for life under the higher gravity of Earth.


The temperature on Titan is about 94 K (−179 C, or −290.2 F), so insulation and heat generation and management would be significant concerns. Although the air pressure at the surface is about 1.5 times that of Earth sea level, because of the colder temperature, the density of the air is about 4.5 times that of Earth sea level. This substantial density should moderate shifts in temperature over time and from one locale to another, to a fraction of the types of temperature changes familiar from the day/night cycle, the seasons, and weather on Earth. The corresponding narrow range of temperature variation further reduces the difficulties in structural engineering.

Relative thickness of the atmosphere combined with extreme cold makes additional troubles for human habitation. Unlike vacuum, the high atmospheric density makes thermoinsulation a significant engineering problem.

Flight on Titan

The very high ratio of atmospheric density to surface gravity also greatly reduces the wingspan needed for an aircraft to maintain lift, so much that a human would be able to strap on wings and easily fly through the atmosphere.
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