Colonization of Titan: Theories, Facts, and Expert Opinions
The largest moon of Saturn can satisfy the needs of the human colony for electricity. As a new study showed, for all its oddities, Titan is in many ways similar to Earth. A thick atmosphere protects its surface from the damaging effects of solar radiation. In addition to the Earth, this is the only body in our system on the surface of which liquid can exist. But if people once settle on rocky dunes under the yellow haze of a moonlit sky, then in a cozy base somewhere on the shores of a hydrocarbon lake they will definitely need energy.
To find out how people can survive in the distant moon in the future, Amanda Hendricks from the Institute for Planetary Sciences and Yuk Jung from the California Institute of Technology have analyzed potential energy sources. Any research robots who travel to Titan as scouts will primarily rely on the energy of radioactive decay, during which electricity and heat are generated. People could do the same and bring materials from the Earth necessary to create a compact nuclear reactor, so that later they could get the necessary elements from Titan. However, while the internal geology of the moon has not yet been investigated, such assumptions remain mere hypotheses.
It is much more important that astronomers already know about the resource, which is abundant on Titan - we are talking about methane. This potentially makes the moon an excellent transfer point where rockets flying from the Earth can land and refuel for more distant flights into the depths of space. According to Ralph Lorenz, a planetary scientist at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, Titan will be a key point for long-distance space expeditions. Burning hydrocarbon on the moon itself is inefficient, since there is no readily available oxygen, but the colonists could receive energy by simply adding hydrogen to acetylene. However, despite the theoretical abundance of acetylene on Titanium, scientists have yet to verify this fact.
Hydropower can also be a problem. According to astronomers, a rather modest amount of precipitation falls on Titan, and only once in several decades there are heavy rains. Sarah Hurst, a planetary scientist at Johns Hopkins University, believes that such conditions are not suitable for hydropower plants: for a short period of time, the rivers become turbulent and full-flowing, and then almost completely dry up. Of course, dams and even water wheels can generate energy from hydrocarbon liquids, but all lakes and seas on the moon are lower than the surrounding landscape - this makes positioning difficult. Topography does not make such projects impossible, but significantly increases the costs of their implementation.
The best option would be to install marine turbines, because Saturn creates strong tides on Titan. The largest hydrocarbon sea of the moon, the Kraken Sea, rises and falls a meter every day. Tidal waves pass through the Throat of the Kraken - a narrow strait separating the northern and southern parts of the sea. According to Lorenz, the Throat is a kind of Strait of Gibraltar, and if you put a hydroelectric power station where, then it is there.
Titan wind farms will also not serve as a long-term source of energy. Sand dunes clearly demonstrate that in the recent past of the moon strong winds actually blew on it, but there is no evidence that this process continues to this day. However, atmospheric circulation changes direction twice a year, and in 2005 the Huygens probe managed to detect strong winds in the upper atmosphere. Hendricks believes that the windmills on Titan will have to be literally tied to the surface and lifted up, but this is already beyond the scope of existing technologies.
Energy of sun
The most unusual idea is to extract energy from the sun. Titanium is almost 10 times more distant from the star than Earth, and receives only one hundredth of a piece of sunlight, compared to our planet. In addition, atmospheric haze filters out part of the world, and therefore the brightest and most sunny day on Titan resembles twilight on Earth. But solar panels are becoming more efficient, and therefore the future colony on the moon has every chance to create an extensive and, importantly, stable energy infrastructure.
According to Hendricks and Jung, to meet the energy needs of 300 million people (an approximate US population), it will require solar farms covering 10% of the total area of Titan, which is comparable to the area of the United States. On Earth, infrastructure that generates the same amount of energy will take an order of magnitude smaller area. As on Earth, there is the problem of cleaning all these solar panels: atmospheric tolins will have to be removed quite often.
Titan has all the necessary energy resources to support the life of human civilization, but living there will not be easy. Atmospheric pressure is one and a half times higher than the Earth’s pressure, and gravity is only 1/7 of what we are used to - people on the surface of the moon will feel more like divers in the ocean, rather than astronauts on rocky lunar expanses. The atmosphere of nitrogen, methane and hydrogen allows breathing only artificial oxygen, and low temperatures will become an additional obstacle to a comfortable existence. It is worth noting, however, that the development of Titan is not fantastic, but requires much more advanced technologies than those that we currently have.