Regular readers know I am interested in humanity developing underwater cities as soon as possible as potential party-spots for owners of personal submarines – and I am hopeful as a late-middle-aged dude (think most interesting man in the world ads without the beautiful young women hanging around – I’m too nerdish and weird and like poetry and ancient history and am a mechanical engineer…) that we will have said cities up and running pretty quick; because we need to. But as an added incentive and inspiration to those of us eagerly awaiting amazing places beneath the waves we can explore in our personal submarines, much like cars nowadays, NASA is proposing an unmanned mission to Saturn’s moon Titan,
“Titan Earth Moon Comparison“. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Titan_Earth_Moon_Comparison.png#mediaviewer/File:Titan_Earth_Moon_Comparison.png
a moon larger than the planet Mercury, and a the only moon in our solar-system, that we know of, with a thick atmosphere. This amazing place also has an enormous ocean of liquid methane. NASA’s brilliant idea? Send a submarine. Brilliant. Let’s do it!
Titan is unique in the outer solar system in that it is the only one of the bodies outside the Earth with liquid lakes and seas on its surface. The Titanian seas, however, are not composed of water, like Earth’s seas, but are seas of liquid hydrocarbons. What lies beneath the surface of Titan’s seas? We propose to develop a conceptual design of a submersible autonomous vehicle (submarine) to explore extraterrestrial seas. Specifically, to send a submarine to Titan’s largest northern sea, Kraken Mare. This craft will autonomously carry out detailed scientific investigations under the surface of Kraken Mare, providing unprecedented knowledge of an extraterrestrial sea and expanding NASA’s existing capabilities in planetary exploration to include in situ nautical operations. Sprawling over some 1000 km, with depths estimated at 300 m, Kraken Mare is comparable in size to the Great Lakes…
Titan Submarine, or Titan Sub for short, will be a fully autonomous, highly capable science craft that will allow a complete exploration of what exists beneath the waves on another world. As such no one has yet envisioned what such a craft might look like, how it would operate or if it could be built… [from the link above]
Excellent choice of names for Titan’s northern sea – the Sea of Kraken:
Exciting as this sounds, there’s bad news afoot:
Saturn’s frigid moon Titan, visited by the Huygens probe in 2005, has a thick atmosphere and three vast northern polar seas of methane and ethane: these seas are of particular interest for future exploration. These seas have a composition and conditions (1.5 bar, 92K) rather similar to those of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) on Earth. The largest, Kraken Mare, is 1000km in extent but of unknown depth: its complex shoreline morphology and evaporate deposits mapped by Cassini hint at a rich chemistry and climate history. We have developed a practical design for a robot submersible to explore this exotic environment, drawing on experience in terrestrial AUVs/UUVs as well as spacecraft systems. The proposed ~1-tonne vehicle, with a radioisotope Stirling generator power source, would be delivered to splashdown circa 2040, to make a ~90-day, ~2000km voyage of exploration around the perimeter, and across the central depths of, Kraken…
There is so much to discover out in our own solar system – we have enough tantalising glimpses to make us realise just how exciting and strange it is – and it’s a no-brainer, as you say, in terms of wanting to find out more. It’s imperative! Not only because of the treasure-trove of information we’ll get but also because, in the process, we learn more about ourselves. The tragedy is that we have the tech to do it, right now, with robot probes. What’s lacking is the political will and the funding – and that’s true for all the nations that have the potential to send such robots into space. Humanity seemed to lose something after the Moon landings. Damn.
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Yes, sad we haven’t made as much progress as we could have in exploring our solar system – we have the tech to do it just as you mentioned.
I have a thought on it but it’s kind of a big thought and I’ll try to be brief. I think a factor holding us back, is a kind of fear, or maybe dread is a better word. A dread brought on by the amazing rate of change from really just before WW II to now. Flight. Cracking the atom. Communications – telephones now cell phones. Computers and the digital revolution. Add in space flight. All of it has happened in a heart beat historically and in a flash of an instant in geological time.
Eventually we’ll get out there and even set up extraterrestrial bases maybe even small-scale colonization. http://earthsky.org/space/100-to-compete-for-one-way-mars-trip?utm_source=EarthSky+News&utm_campaign=ea54e69884-EarthSky_News&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c643945d79-ea54e69884-394199249
I’m just a little sad that I’ll miss most of the fun!