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NASA May Send a Submarine to Saturn's Moon Titan

Aug 29, 2016 03:38 AM EDT
Aerover Blimp Proposed to Study Saturn''s Titan Moon
NASA is looking for ways on how to explore Saturn's moon Titan, one of which, as revealed by a NASA engineer is by using a submarine to analyze the methane oceans on Titan.
(Photo : NASA via Getty Images)

Part of NASA's plan to pursue deep space and interplanetary explorations are calling for more missions geared towards distant planets and satellites. To execute the plan, a NASA official revealed that the agency is thinking of sending a submarine to look for signs of life on Titan's methane oceans.

The focus on Saturn's moon Titan had grown since it was first discovered that the satellite might contain the right chemistry to cater to life. In line with this, NASA is thinking of sending a submarine to Titan to explore the chemical composition of Titan's largest ocean, Kraken Mare. Kraken Mare is sprawled over 1,000 km with an estimated 300 m depth, according to Indian Express.

The cool and innovative idea to explore Saturn's moon using a submarine was divulged by Jason Hartwig, a cryogenics engineer at NASA during a presentation at the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts Symposium. There are two main purposes for the submarine, according to Hartwig, and that is to detect any signs of hydrocarbon-based life and to find Earth-like properties of the satellite, Tecake reported.

Some experts believe that there is truth to the theory that says Titan may have the right chemistry for life. And if it is true, its oceans, including the Kraken Mare might have existing microbes today. But the microbes may be entirely different from those found on Earth, since the oceans on Titan are filled up with liquid hydrocarbons instead of water.

To explore, the submarine will have to survive the methane ocean with high pressure where it will start to freeze at 400-500 meters underneath the surface. But of course, the submarine, will be designed to survive this kind of environment. It will be equipped with instruments to gather data about the moon. It will have instruments that can analyze the chemical composition of the methane ocean, ocean floor and the tides.

Hartwig added that it will be able to perform autonomously while on Titan and will also have the capacity to communicate to the base on Earth just like the new Mars rover. 

But if ever NASA decides to build the submarine, it cannot be sent to Titan until 2038 when the equation and alignment of Earth and Saturn are in the right place.


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