For the last decade or so, most of the talk about space colonization has cited Mars, the Moon, and maybe Europa as the best candidates for becoming an interplanetary species. But according to some experts, our best hope for continuing the human race post-apocalypse is a dark horse candidate: Saturn’s largest moon, Titan.
In a new article in Scientific American, author Charles Wohlforth and planetary scientist Amanda Hendrix explain step-by-step why they reached this seemingly strange conclusion:
“We reached this conclusion after looking at the planets in a new way: ecologically. We considered the habitat that human beings need and searched for those conditions in our celestial neighborhood.”
Up until now, most researchers have looked to the Moon or Mars as possible future colonies, partly because they are close, and partly because they seem more realistic. But neither the Moon or Mars has the crucial magnetosphere or atmosphere necessary to shield fragile human bodies from galactic cosmic rays (GCR). GCRs include particles such as iron nuclei that destroy brain tissue as they travel at nearly the speed of light, meaning that people cannot live long term under their assault.
Beyond Mars, the next potential home is most likely on a moon of Jupiter or Saturn – which is how Wohlforth and Hendrix arrive at Titan. Titan is the only other body in the solar system with liquid on its surface – albeit liquid methane and ethane. From the outside, Titan even resembles Earth, with dunes and lakes. And, better yet, Titan has a nitrogen atmosphere that’s fifty percent thicker than Earth’s, which would help shelter us from the harmful GCRs.
The atmosphere would allow us to exist happily, so long as we had a way to protect against the -291 degree weather and respirators to give us the oxygen we need. Housing could be made of plastic produced from the unlimited surface resources, and ice below the surface could be used for oxygen. As an added bonus, the gravity is so weak, we could easily fly on the surface if we got bored.
Though all of this sounds great in theory, there is no viable way to travel there, much less exert the colonization effort we would need to make Titan habitable. So for now, maybe we should focus on preserving Earth for as long as possible instead.
Originally published on Outer Places