Most dreams of human colonization of #Space involve the moon or Mars. But, in a recent article in Scientific America, Charles Wohlforth and Amanda R. Hendrix, authors of a new book entitled “Beyond Earth, Our Path to a New Home in the Planets,” do a little outside the box thinking and hit upon Titan, a moon of Saturn, as the first home of humanity in outer space.
The moon has been touted as a venue for a space colony because of its resources. The Mars looks promising because it might, in the fullness of time, be terraformed to become a second Earth, with an atmosphere and surface water. The Red Planet was an Earth-like planet billions of years ago. Wohlforth and Hendrix reject both worlds because, lacking a magnetosphere, they receive a great deal of surface radiation. Colonists would have to shield their habitats or burrow underground, the two scientists claim.
What makes Titan so exciting as a home for a space colony? The moon is 1.4 billion kilometers away from Earth. It has a thick, nitrogen atmosphere and bodies of water consisting of liquid methane and ethane. The temperature on Titan is about -180°C (-291°F). Gravity on Titan is about 14 percent of that of Earth, a little weaker than the moon.
What are the advantages of Titan? The thick nitrogen atmosphere provides a good radiation shield as does Saturn's magnetosphere. It also means that one does not need a pressure suit to step outside, but warm (extremely warm) clothing and a respirator. The hydrocarbon seas provide an unlimited resource that can be turned into plastic to make habitats, massive domes with heat and an atmosphere where people could live. The hydrocarbons could be used as fuel. Titan has plenty of ice, which means a readily available source of water which can also be refined into oxygen and hydrogen.
Of course, since a voyage to Titan lasts several years, some kind of faster propulsion system (the emdrive?) needs to be developed before we send settlers there. Also, an economic or other reason has to be found to plant a colony on that far distant moon. Still, the authors of the piece provide food for thought as the incoming Trump administration plan a decades-long exploration program that is designed to send astronauts across the solar system, presumably including Titan.