Titan Colonization: Could Saturn’s Moon Be A New Earth?

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From why it could work, to why we would want to go there at all, join me as we explore the potential of Saturn’s Moon Titan being an alternate Earth!

8. Why Titan?

That is the question, isn’t it? Why would we consider going to a place like Titan to be a “new home” for humanity? Especially when we have Mars, an actual planet, that we’re prepping for. And Titan is a moon, not a planet!

Well, if you are willing to lower your skepticism, there is some hard science that states why Titan might just be a viable place for us to live on.

In terms of size, Titan is bigger than you might think. It is the largest moon that orbits Saturn, and it is bigger than our moon and even the planet Mercury. That beings said, it’s only 40% the size of Earth, so that would be a small problem.

However, what it lacks in space, it makes up for in gasses and hydrocarbons. Specifically, liquid hydrocarbons, which has many scientists thinking that this is a great place to go because the amounts of liquid hydrocarbons that they’re seeing on Titan is greater than that of the entirety of Earth:

“Titan is just covered in carbon-bearing material—it’s a giant factory of organic chemicals”, said Ralph Lorenz, who leads the study of Titan based on radar data from Cassini. “This vast carbon inventory is an important window into the geology and climate history of Titan.”

Just to give you an image of what you can expect by that statement, there are literal seas and lakes filled with methane, ethane and other liquid hydrocarbons. Some have even been measured to be bigger than the Great Lakes in the United States.

And since Carbon is an important part of life as a whole, that means we would be able to use the gas deposits to help fuel our culture…whatever we put there that is. And that’s only the start of the reasons why Titan could work.

7. Atmosphere

As anyone who has studied our planet will tell you, the most important thing on Earth isn’t our land masses or even our water, it’s actually the atmosphere that allows us to breathe and protects us from space. Our atmosphere is comprised of many elements, and these elements help protect us from harmful radiation via the sun and space. One of the difficulties in finding a suitable replacement for Earth in our solar system is that no planet or moon has our exact atmosphere. Mars doesn’t even have one, as it was destroyed a very long time ago.

Yet, with Titan, it does have an atmosphere, and one comprised of very familiar elements: oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen and methane, all of which are in our own atmosphere.

Because of this, some scientists have stated that Titan is the “most hospitable” place in our solar system that humans could survive at.

At that’s only scratching the surface of what these gasses can do for us. For example, while the water on the planet may not be able to be drinkable as it stands, it can be filtered to not only drink, but produce more oxygen into the air. And, the Nitrogen, methane and ammonia that is within the atmosphere and the planet can be used to make fertilizer, and thus allow us to grow food on the planet when the time comes.

The reason Mars is considered for colonization is because it’s a hard rock planet that we can make work via various technologies. But until we learn how to make an atmosphere, we’ll have to be in protected domes and colonies. On Titan, that possibility may not be needed. We could live on Titan as we live on Earth…if the right steps are taken.

Titan Saturn

6. Energy Resources

We lightly touched on this before, but let’s talk about how we would get power on Titan should we “move there”.

After all, we can’t bring all the energy resources from Earth to the moon and just expect to get up and go. We can bring generators to start, but eventually those will die and lose power so clearly we’d need something else to fuel us long-term. Thankfully, Titan naturally has a lot of options for us to use.

Some outlined by scientists after studying the surface of Titan include chemical, nuclear, wind, solar and hydropower.

While it may seem obvious, the number of different ways we can make power via these options is very important in the long run. As Earth has shown us, focusing on one specific power source to fuel much of humanity leads to a lot of problems. However, when it comes to the variety we have on titan, including the vast amount of gasses and liquid hydrocarbons that the place has, we’re able to utilize all sorts of different energies to power us and our devices.

A somewhat out of the box suggestion is using turbines in the methane seas to generate power, as their tides are fueled by Saturn itself, and that would allow us to get a lot of power without having to do much.

Redundancy is a word you likely don’t think about too much, but in this case, having multiple layers of redundancy in regards to energy production means that we can live without fear of cascading power failure outside of truly divine or unpredictable incident. Which for a colony is a very important safety net to have.

5. Gravity

So we’ve shown that we can potentially live on Titan, and that we have the resources (potentially) to thrive on there. But there are other factors that need to be considered when thinking about putting down a colony. Such as…gravity.

You don’t have to think about gravity too much on Earth, mainly because it’s constant and you never feel like it’s pulling you down. But, if you were to go to our moon, you’ll feel 6 times lighter. Which is fun, but it would take some getting used to if you wanted to live there.

So where does that leave Titan? Ironically, its gravity is a little less than the Earth’s moon is. Not by much, but enough.

You might be thinking, “Why would a lesser gravity be a detriment if we can get used to it?” Well it’s because you’re thinking about it in the mental sense. Us having to adjust mentally to being much lighter than what we’re used to. But rather, you need to think about it in the physical sense.

Long-term exposure to gravity less than what we’re used to can cause all sorts of problems on the human body. This was discovered in force via astronauts on the International Space Station. For while previous astronauts were in space via the Mercury and Apollo missions, rarely were they gone above a week or two. But on the ISS, they were up there for up to a year or more at a time. That’s a lot of exposure to microgravity as is it known.

The side effects of long-term microgravity is a weakened bone structure, as well as a weakened immune system. Which could bring a lot of problems to humanity on Titan if not countered.

Granted, we do have a partial fix for this, as rigorous exercise on the ISS astronauts while on the station has proven to counteract the bone density problem. What’s more there are ways to help boost the immune system of people, it’s just not been tested in a literal colony.

To be clear, this isn’t an indictment on Titan, it’s rather a cautionary warning that the moon may be good for us to colonize, but it’s not a perfect solution to our ‘problem’.

4. Travel

Here’s another aspect that I doubt you were thinking about in regards to colonizing Titan. How would we move about the moon? We could walk, obviously, especially once we get used to the microgravity of the place. However, because of the gravity, we have another option open to us that is a bit more sci-fi and WAY cooler.

Mainly, we could technically have the ability to fly on Titan.

This is due to the gravity and atmosphere of Titan. The density of the atmosphere, when combined with the gravity elements allow people to not just jump through the air, but actually cut through it much more easily than we do right here on Earth.

Air density is a big reason why planes and other similar aircraft need massive wings to get lift to rise off the ground. But on Titan, we wouldn’t need to have that, and with the right small equipment, we could be riding through the skies of Titan to get to where we need to go.

There are even those out there who believe that we could use a type of spacesuit and jetpack like device using the natural gasses and such of the atmosphere to fly.

Which of course would make this sci-fi nerd very happy.

Granted, this would have to be tested thoroughly, however, it would mean that we could have a fun, safe, and economically friendly way of getting around should we live there.

rocket launch

3. It’s Better Than Mars

I know that may sound like a rather odd statement, especially as humanity is working frivolously to try and get to Mars both in terms of spacecraft (not counting satellites and probes and rovers obviously) but also in terms of making a true human colony. Both NASA and SpaceX (run by Elon Musk) are working hard right now to try and make that happen.

But, for many, they just don’t see Mars as a viable place for us to live long term. And many scientists have stated that compared to Titan, Mars just isn’t a good place for us to try and populate.

As noted earlier, Titan has an atmosphere, and it’s the only one of the 177 moons in our solar system to have such a thing. Meaning it’s pretty rare. Compared to Mars that has no atmosphere and thus is bombarded with all sorts of space rays and radiation that we’d have to shield ourselves against in order to survive.

To be fair, we would have to wear protective suits on Titan in order to survive, but that’s to a much lesser extent. As the temperature of Titan is very cold, much colder than Mars, and thus we’d have to protect ourselves from that else we’ll freeze. But it’s much less protection than we’d need on Mars.

Plus, when comparing resources that are already abundant on Titan, Mars just doesn’t compare. We’d have to land on Mars in the polar ice caps just to get water to survive. Whereas Titan has much more readily available materials for us to use.

The main reason that we’re considering Mars versus Titan is distance. As Titan is near Saturn which is the sixth planet in our solar system, three away from Earth. While Mars is our literally neighbor planet wise.

However, should the distance problem be solved, Titan would be the viable option out of everything currently in our solar system.

2. The Sun Issue

As I just mentioned, the surface of Titan is really cold, and due to that we’d have to have protection from the temperature.

However, that’s not the only issue with Titan in regards to the sun. Due to its position around Saturn, and Saturn’s position to our sun, we’re not going to have a lot of light on the surface. Scientists estimate that the max light output during the “day” will be about as bright as Earth is after sunset, which isn’t too bright.

Add to that, because of the distance from the sun, photosynthesis will be incredibly hard to handle. As we can’t count on the effects of the sun to grow our plants in the way they do on Earth.

The answer to this is technology, which we are already doing on Earth to help make plants grow. It’s just that on Titan it’d have to be to a much larger scale. A scale that many would have to prepare for in order to make the moon more habitable more quickly.

Again, not a detriment to the cause, but something we’d need to plan for.

Of course…there’s always the sci-fi option…

1. Terraforming

Heading very much into the “sci-fi realm” of making Titan a perfect place for us to live on, let’s talk the notion of Terraforming.

For those who don’t know the concept of it, it’s basically transforming the landscape of an area from what it is…to what you want it to be. Like I said, very sci-fi, and yet, there are those who are working to try and make this happen on a large scale.

And if we’re being honest, we know that terraforming is possible because of how our own planet works. There are times when a once lush area gets turned into a desert. That’s a type of terraforming. Or how farmers will work a barren land and give it nutrients and water in order to make it able to produce plants. That’s a type of terraforming.

Usually though, when the word is thrown around, you’re talking about having a device of a “laser” that can be fired at a place and cause widespread changes to a planet in the course of minutes or even seconds depending on how good the technology is. And to be clear, that is theoretically possible…we just don’t know how to do it yet.

But, whether it’s the fast or slow version of terraforming, it is a viable way to make Titan a much better place for us to live. Mainly because it has the bones to make it very Earth-like, we just have to nudge it in the right ways so that the people who live there can prosper.

It’s doubt that the technologies we use to terraform will ever be so advanced that we can just replicate Earth (cause if we could do that we would just go to Mars and do it in a snap), but in regards to changing it subtly to fit our needs, that’s very much within the realm of possibility.

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