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Thread: Let's colonize Titan

  1. #1
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    Let's colonize Titan

    I guess this is better suited to Space Exploration than Life in Space, but a recent blog post at Scientific American makes the argument, which I find pretty compelling, that the rather than the moon or Mars, we should be thinking about Titan as a place to colonize. It's further away, which is a downside, but it's better suited to humans and (if not for the cloud cover!) it would have a great view! It's interesting that almost all the discussion I remember here is about Mars versus the moon.
    As above, so below

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    The average surface temperature on Titan is minus 290 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 179 degrees Celsius).Mar 12, 2015
    How Humans Could Live on Saturn's Moon Titan (Infographic)
    https://www.space.com/28788-living-o...fographic.html

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    I guess this is better suited to Space Exploration than Life in Space, but a recent blog post at Scientific American makes the ahrgument, which I find pretty compelling, that the rather than the moon or Mars, we should be thinking about Titan as a place to colonize. It's further away, which is a downside, but it's better suited to humans and (if not for the cloud cover!) it would have a great view! It's interesting that almost all the discussion I remember here is about Mars versus the moon.
    Could you tell us what you find compelling about their arguments? The only one that strikes me as having merit is radiation shielding, but I think the author overestimates the difficulty in shielding habitats on the Moon or Mars. How does Saturn's radiation environment compare to that of Jupiter?
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    The finding of toxic gases in Titan's atmosphere would work against a colony on Titan. On the other hand the discovery of a large cavern under the surface of the moon makes that a more attractive proposal, especially if the finding of water trapped in the crust of the roof of the cavern turns out to be true.

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    Another reason against Titan is we struggle here on earth to live in extreme cold weather.

    http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Ne...ctica_999.html

    The Concordia research station in Antarctica is a place of extremes: for nine months no supplies can be delivered, the nearest living beings are 600 km away at the Russian Vostok station, and the Sun does not rise above the horizon for four months in the winter.

    One thing is for sure: it is cold, dropping below -80C, and the high altitude offers reduced oxygen in the air.

    Each year, ESA sponsors a research medical doctor through the winter months to run experiments on the rest of the 15-strong crew. There are few other places on Earth that resemble the isolation and extreme climate astronauts will endure on other planets - an opportunity for ESA to test technology and learn how humans behave in close quarters.

    Concordia is run by the French and Italian polar organisations to collect data for subjects as diverse as glaciology, astronomy and climate science. This year, ESA-sponsored Carmen Possnig from Austria has joined the crew for training and briefing at the French polar research institute in Brest.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    It's further away, which is a downside, but it's better suited to humans and (if not for the cloud cover!) it would have a great view!
    It would not be a great view to human eyes. Too much smog.

    It is "better suited to humans" than other bodies only in a couple of limited categories. A rotating space habitat with a non rotating shell could have 1 full G of simulated gravity, warm air and water, reflected sunlight, AND arbitrarily large amounts of radiation shielding in the outer shell. It would be far better suited to humans because it could match ideal Earthly conditions to a higher degree more easily. Not to mention that solar power is available more readily than on the dim, dingy surface of Titan.

    Plus, telescopes could give you a great view of Saturn!
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    While it would certainly make things easy to cool, I'm not sure a very dense very cold atmosphere constantly attempting to rob you of all your heat is necessarily easier than vacuum.

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    Plenty of renewable energy, so we could commence mucking that world up.

    Sometimes I think Desiderata is hopelessly optimistic.

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    Quote Originally Posted by selvaarchi View Post
    Another reason against Titan is we struggle here on earth to live in extreme cold weather.

    http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Ne...ctica_999.html
    We are in total agreement here. Nobody wants to live at these extremes and I think this is ultimately the reason living at the bottom of other gravity wells will not work. Once the technology for space habitats with radiation protection and a range of rotationally generated gravity is developed, it will be the preferred choice.

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    Could we build "igloos" on Enceladus?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noisy Rhysling View Post
    Could we build "igloos" on Enceladus?

    Technically yes, but you'd melt your way into the surface in short order.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Technically yes, but you'd melt your way into the surface in short order.
    With up to 30 km of ice over the liquid water* I'm not sure how fast that would be**.


    *I might be getting my ice worlds mixed up.

    **I hope we'd pick an area where the ice goes right down the rock, so as to avoid possible contamination of the water world.

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    Let's colonize Titan

    Why not build the igloo with a significant layer of insulation between the floor and the surface? Or build it on rock?

    But as for Titan, we’d have to tap the hydrocarbons for fuel since Titan receives relatively little sunlight on its atmosphere and not much at all on the surface.

    Bring a good parka.

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    Last edited by schlaugh; 2017-Oct-30 at 01:38 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by schlaugh View Post
    Why not build the igloo with a significant layer of insulation between the floor and the surface? Or build it on rock?
    If we build it on rock we need to "import" the ice. Building it on anything on Enceladus would require insulation to be human habitable. The question would be which medium transfers heat quicker ice or rock. And, of course, we could build it on pylons to reduce contact with the surface. Make the pylons out of something which doesn't conduct heat easily.

    But I thought on the igloos is that ice can be used to shield against radiation as well as being a readily available construction material. A dome of ice over a habitat that doesn't actually touch the habitat would be a good shield, I think.

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    Quote Originally Posted by schlaugh View Post
    But as for Titan, we’d have to tap the hydrocarbons for fuel since Titan receives relatively little sunlight on its atmosphere and not much at all on the surface.
    The question is how you would use the hydrocarbons as fuel given the lack of available oxygen

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    Let's colonize Titan

    Quote Originally Posted by Grashtel View Post
    The question is how you would use the hydrocarbons as fuel given the lack of available oxygen
    Yes that’s an issue. Maybe nuclear is a better option. But we can mine water ice and separate the O from the H. So that would give us shivering colonists several fuel options.

    ETA: Stephen Baxter wrote a novel about a manned mission to Titan. Not bad, although a bit sketchy (IMO) on how long a crew could live.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titan_...l)?wprov=sfti1


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    Last edited by schlaugh; 2017-Oct-31 at 02:53 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by schlaugh View Post
    Yes that’s an issue. Maybe nuclear is a better option. But we can mine water ice and separate the O from the H. So that would give us shivering colonists several fuel options.
    Separating the O and H from ice will cost at least as much energy as they would get back from burning stuff with the O. Hydrocarbons are only a useful energy source if you have if you have naturally available oxidizers as well, which Titan is notably short on.

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    There are three ways to obtain energy for a colony on Titan; none of them involve burning hydrocarbons, since that would require an oxidant.
    1/ The abundant hydrogen could be used as fusion fuel, and this would provide a very large supply of energy (assuming small-scale fusion can ever be made to work).
    2/ The second source of energy in the Saturn system is the planet's magnetic field- you could create an array of dynamos in the magnetic field, and beam the energy to Titan by microwave (although I don't know how well microwaves would pass though the moon's atmosphere). Maybe you could make a space elevator to the surface and bring the power in that way. To extract energy from a planet's magnetic field you need an anchor and a source of kinetic energy - perhaps the best source of kinetic energy would be Titan itself. Extracting energy from the moon's orbital velocity could conceivably provide a lot of power for a very long time, although eventually you'd shift Titan into a new, smaller orbit.
    3/ A third source of power for Titan could be the Sun itself. Sure, sunlight out there is about 1 percent of sunlight on Earth; so you'd need to have collectors 100 times as large. To warm Titan to Earth-like temperatures you'd need an array of perfect mirrors 100 times as large as Titan- but very thin statite mirrors might be able to collect a surprisingly large amount of sunlight. There are other ways to pipe sunlight to Titan, but they are increasingly speculative.

    In short Titan could make a good place to colonise but the challenges are also considerable.

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    Ah, so this is the Titan colonization thread. Knew I'd find one if I looked long enough.

    Amusing article from The Atlantic about a "summer" vacation on Titan, accurate in its astronomy to the best of my knowledge. A fun read.

    https://www.theatlantic.com/science/...cation/591709/

    "It’s unlikely, but summer, arguably the best season for daydreaming, is upon us, so I reached out to a few scientists who study Titan to gauge the moon’s qualifications for a cosmic getaway. Set aside the long and dangerous journey, which would require astronomical leaps in technology if you planned to leave tomorrow. What might it be like to stand on the shores of a Titanian lake and look out across the expanse?

    "Well, you wouldn’t be able to see much, actually. Our dinky human eyes weren’t made for Titan, which is covered in thick haze, tinted the color of Dijon mustard because of chemical interactions between sunlight and compounds in the moon’s atmosphere. Unlike on Earth, sunlight strains to break through to the surface.

    " “Our vision is adapted to the situation on Earth—a lot of visible light,” says Daniel Cordier, a scientist at the University of Reims in France. “On Titan, only a tiny fraction of visible light entering the atmosphere reaches the ground.” "
    Last edited by Roger E. Moore; 2019-Jun-14 at 07:29 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by eburacum45 View Post
    There are three ways to obtain energy for a colony on Titan; none of them involve burning hydrocarbons, since that would require an oxidant.
    ...3/ A third source of power for Titan could be the Sun itself. Sure, sunlight out there is about 1 percent of sunlight on Earth; so you'd need to have collectors 100 times as large. To warm Titan to Earth-like temperatures you'd need an array of perfect mirrors 100 times as large as Titan- but very thin statite mirrors might be able to collect a surprisingly large amount of sunlight. There are other ways to pipe sunlight to Titan, but they are increasingly speculative.
    Titan can have its own moons, per the source below...

    https://academic.oup.com/mnrasl/arti.../1/L80/5195537

    ...but if a collector has to be 100x the size of Earthly collectors to get the same power, then nuclear power it will probably be.
    There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
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    How about only colonising a tiny fraction of Titan's surface, while dedicating 100 times as much area to collecting sunlight? The surface could be parcelled up into squares, so that 99 squares out of a hundred are power collectors, while the other square is where you live.

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    Build the collectors in orbit, plenty of room up there and no smog. For that matter, build the colonies in orbit too!
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Quote Originally Posted by eburacum45 View Post
    How about only colonising a tiny fraction of Titan's surface, while dedicating 100 times as much area to collecting sunlight? The surface could be parcelled up into squares, so that 99 squares out of a hundred are power collectors, while the other square is where you live.
    The surface gets less solar radiation than in space because of tholin smog. I am unable at the moment to provide details, but this is mentioned in many sources.
    There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
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    Found some possible answers on the illumination at Titan's surface. Not good for solar cells.

    https://space.stackexchange.com/ques...astronauts-see


    LATE ADD: "Huygens found the brightness of the surface of Titan (at time of landing) to be about one thousand times dimmer than full solar illumination on Earth (or 500 times brighter than illumination by full moonlight)—that is, the illumination level experienced about ten minutes after sunset on Earth, approximately late civil twilight. The color of the sky and the scene on Titan is mainly orange due to the much greater attenuation of blue light by Titan's haze relative to red light. The Sun (which was comparatively high in the sky when Huygens landed) would be visible as a small, bright spot, one tenth the size of the solar disk seen from Earth, and comparable in size and brightness to a car headlight seen from about 150 meters. It casts sharp shadows, but of low contrast as 90% of the illumination comes from the sky."

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huygen...)#Landing_site
    Last edited by Roger E. Moore; 2019-Jun-14 at 10:33 PM.
    There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
    — Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi (1883)

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    A webpage listing the many advantages of moving to Titan, despite the obvious drawbacks. A bit brief but has links.

    http://www.spacetechasia.com/why-tit...eyond-earth/2/
    There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
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    Cold, wind, and weather beyond anything we have tried to build and live in on Earth. And that's just the stuff we know about; we don't know much, in fact.

    Let's get a clearer picture of what surface conditions there are actually like before we start selling residential lots there.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Callisto is lookin' good compared to this.

    References say that most cosmic radiation and meteors are stopped short by Titan's thick atmosphere, so there is that.
    There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
    — Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi (1883)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger E. Moore View Post
    References say that most cosmic radiation and meteors are stopped short by Titan's thick atmosphere, so there is that.
    A few meters of Callisto ice would take care of that problem!
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    I love the idea of setting up an oxygen containing habitat in a place where any leak lets in flammable gases and liquids.
    I suspect doing it right under Titan conditions would take a lot of practice.
    Tin pest is probably not alone.

  30. #30
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    I like the idea of colonizing space, and space bodies. I think it's important for our future as a species. But to try to colonize every single space body is to my mind, impractical and unnecessary. Some places would just not be worth the candle.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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