First steps on Titan
Perhaps some day in the far future humans will set foot on Saturn's mysterious moon Titan, one of the most interesting worlds in the Solar System. Larger than the planet Mercury, Earth's moon, and the dwarf planet Pluto, and second only in size to Jupiter's satellite Ganymede, Titan is the only known extraterrestrial world with a dense atmosphere that realistically could be visited by humans. A visit to Titan would require a space journey of a year or more and traverse over 700 million miles.
Beneath Titan's 350 miles of atmosphere, intrepid explorers would likely find a dark, forbidding landscape of rock, ice, and possibly tarry layers of hydrocarbons and lakes of liquid ethane and/or methane (AKA natural gas). The Surface temperature would be around minus 300° F, cold enough to freeze exposed human tissue within seconds. There would be no oxygen to breathe, and any water to be found would be as hard and dense as granite. Despite these harsh conditions, Titan could yet yield secrets regarding the origin of life itself as it is believed that, with the exception of the extreme cold, Titan resembles the primordial Earth at the time living organisms first appeared.
In this image, Titan's first human visitors are protected by thick suits and helmets to shield them from the extreme cold--and possibly toxic compounds such as hydrogen cyanide. They carry their own oxygen as Titan's atmosphere is primarily nitrogen with lesser amounts of argon, methane and other gases. Each explorer also carries "head" lights attached to their helmets to help them navigate a terrain that receives only 1/1000th the Sun's illumination on the Earth; while this means that noon on Titan would appear relatively dim, it would yet be over 300 times brighter than the Earth under a full moon.
Copyright © Walter B. Myers. All rights reserved.
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