Stories
Slash Boxes
Comments

SoylentNews is people

posted by n1 on Monday May 15, @02:25AM   Printer-friendly
from the new-colonial-era dept.

John Timmer at Ars Technica reports:

So, why Titan? The two closer destinations, the Moon and Mars, have atmospheres that are effectively nonexistent. That means any habitation will have to be extremely robust to hold its contents in place. Both worlds are also bathed in radiation, meaning those habitats will need to be built underground, as will any agricultural areas to feed the colonists. Any activities on the surface will have to be limited to avoid excessive radiation exposure.

Would anyone want to go to a brand-new world just to spend their lives in a cramped tunnel? Hendrix and Wohlforth suggest the answer will be "no." Titan, in contrast, offers a dense atmosphere that shields the surface from radiation and would make any structural failures problematic, rather than catastrophic. With an oxygen mask and enough warm clothing, humans could roam Titan's surface in the dim sunlight. Or, given the low gravity and dense atmosphere, they could float above it in a balloon or on personal wings.

The vast hydrocarbon seas and dunes, Hendrix and Wohlforth suggest, would allow polymers to handle many of the roles currently played by metal and wood. Drilling into Titan's crust would access a vast supply of liquid water in the moon's subsurface ocean. It's not all the comforts of home, but it's a lot more of them than you'd get on the Moon or Mars.


Original Submission

Display Options Threshold/Breakthrough

Reply to Article

Mark All as Read

Mark All as Unread

The Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not responsible for them in any way.
(1)
  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by its_gonna_be_yuge! on Monday May 15, @02:45AM (15 children)

    by its_gonna_be_yuge! (6454) on Monday May 15, @02:45AM (#509712)

    The atmosphere of Venus would be a better bet - 75degC and almost the same gravity, plus lots of sunshine. Also a lot closer than Titan. Just have to work around the H2SO4.

    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Monday May 15, @02:51AM

      by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Monday May 15, @02:51AM (#509715) Journal

      The Venusian atmosphere is definitely worth a shot because good luck getting 0.9g otherwise.

      --
      [SIG] 04/14/2017: Soylent Upgrade v13 [soylentnews.org]
    • (Score: 2) by wisnoskij on Monday May 15, @03:22AM (13 children)

      Are we thinking of the same Venus?
      Mean surface temperature of 735 K (462 °C; 863 °F)
      Atmospheric pressure at the planet's surface is 92 times that of Earth

      So it is the temperature of a pizza oven, and about ten times more pressure than the human body can safely handle.
      So any structures will need to be super reinforced, with any failures instantly crushing all within with the air pressure alone.
      And these structures can forget about most metals, Maybe Titanium would still hold most of it's strength. forget about plastics. Forget about wood. Everything would pretty much need to be made out of ceramics and the like.

      --
      Respect my Authoritah!!!
      • (Score: 4, Informative) by its_gonna_be_yuge! on Monday May 15, @03:35AM (7 children)

        by its_gonna_be_yuge! (6454) on Monday May 15, @03:35AM (#509740)

        Are we thinking of the same Venus?

        Maybe you could read the comment, which said "the atmosphere of Venus". This has been widely touted as an alternative to Mars:

        https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20030022668.pdf [nasa.gov]

        • (Score: 3, Insightful) by mhajicek on Monday May 15, @06:04AM (6 children)

          by mhajicek (51) on Monday May 15, @06:04AM (#509796)

          Good luck mining for mineral resources in your cloud city. Might as well be in a space station.

          • (Score: 2) by takyon on Monday May 15, @06:53AM (1 child)

            by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Monday May 15, @06:53AM (#509816) Journal

            Except the ISS or other space stations experience microgravity which weakens you big league in mere months [soylentnews.org]. Water can be extracted from the atmosphere of Venus.

            --
            [SIG] 04/14/2017: Soylent Upgrade v13 [soylentnews.org]
            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 15, @07:15AM

              by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 15, @07:15AM (#509820)

              Better to build a space station with artificial gravity and have it "orbit" a suitable asteroid/moon that you mine. Or have some thing spinning that's attached to the asteroid (some asteroids may have low enough gravity that if you spin/swing stuff on it most people/"victims" might not get motion sickness). Note: it doesn't have to be one of those super expensive wheel things, there are much cheaper things that can be built.

              It's funny how so many people supposedly have money for going to Mars but they didn't have the budget for this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centrifuge_Accommodations_Module [wikipedia.org]

              I would have thought it's a lot more scientific and logical to actually do experiments to figure out whether humans and our favourite animals/livestock and plants can do OK in Mars/Moon/etc gravity for long periods of time.

              If it turns out that humans can't tolerate Mars gravity for long periods then we shouldn't be wasting so much time and money on going to Mars. You can't easily adjust the gravity/acceleration once you're on the surface of Mars. Whereas you can adjust it on a suitable space station.

          • (Score: 2) by Thexalon on Monday May 15, @12:45PM (2 children)

            by Thexalon (636) Subscriber Badge on Monday May 15, @12:45PM (#509980) Homepage

            I think I'd rather be on Cloud City than on a space station, for the simple reason of much higher chances of surviving the movie. Why oh why don't they know how to protect small thermal exhaust ports?

            --
            In Capitalist America, ads view you!
            • (Score: 1) by Delwin on Monday May 15, @03:28PM

              by Delwin (4554) on Monday May 15, @03:28PM (#510056)

              Because it was a very well hidden sabotage by the lead engineer.

            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 15, @05:51PM

              by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 15, @05:51PM (#510145)

              Seriously, the torpedo turned a corner, like it was being sucked in, but this is an EXHAUST port.

              As an engineer he thought of everything that seemed reasonable, but no one told him the enemy might be a space wizard!

          • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Monday May 15, @03:05PM

            by Grishnakh (2831) Subscriber Badge on Monday May 15, @03:05PM (#510047)

            Yeah, but isn't that part of the OP's point about Venus? Good luck mining for mineral resources on Titan, where digging in the surface will just get you frozen methane and eventually water. There's no mineral resources there to speak of that I know of. So instead of going there, where it's far away, dark, and cold, you might as well build a cloud city on Venus. Sure, there's no mineral resources that can be feasibly extracted, but that's no different than Titan.

            And at least on Venus, if you can ever figure out how to get remote-control mining equipment to survive the hellish surface temperatures and pressures, then you could potentially mine the surface. (I know, it's really not feasible.) Not so for Titan.

            But yeah, if you're looking for mineral resources, Moon and Mars make some sense, though IMO it makes much more sense to capture and mine asteroids. We wouldn't even have to go very far, since there's plenty of asteroids that cross Earth orbit. And the Moon is very close too, though it's questionable how valuable its mineral resources would be. This Mars stuff makes little sense economically compared to these.

      • (Score: 4, Informative) by takyon on Monday May 15, @03:35AM

        by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Monday May 15, @03:35AM (#509741) Journal
      • (Score: 1) by DmT on Monday May 15, @09:16AM (2 children)

        by DmT (6439) on Monday May 15, @09:16AM (#509877)

        Just send a bunch of different earth bacteria there. They will adapt the environment to their needs.

        • (Score: 3, Insightful) by GreatAuntAnesthesia on Monday May 15, @01:54PM (1 child)

          by GreatAuntAnesthesia (3275) on Monday May 15, @01:54PM (#510010) Journal

          Evolution does not work that way! Bacteria do not "adapt the environment to their needs." They consume, they reproduce, and they die. They can adapt their environment, but they do so entirely by accident and they probably won't enjoy the result.

          Your bacteria will either (a) die or (b) survive and adapt to their new environment. Assuming (b), they will then (b1) exhaust all resources in that environment until they are forced to adapt or die again or (b2) be so successful that they completely change their environment with their chemistry, forcing them to adapt or die again. The chances of (b3) the various branches of life descended from but very different to your initial bacteria colony falling neatly into a huge and complex series of self-sustaining feedback loops that just happen to work together to maintain a consistent human-friendly environment are... well... nobody knows for sure, but there's no reason to believe it will just happen. There is no guarantee that you'll get any kind of long-term steady-state environment like the one we enjoy on Earth. Even if we were to luck out, it would take millions or billions of years to get there.

          If we are to terraform Venus it needs to be a deliberate, planned engineering project (which may well use various carefully-selected / engineered strains of bacteria, granted) rather than just "drop off some bacteria and hope for the best".

          • (Score: 1) by DmT on Monday May 15, @06:58PM

            by DmT (6439) on Monday May 15, @06:58PM (#510180)

            But that would be cheap, at least:)
            Yes, would take lots of time, but better than the current terraforming efforts (none). At least this would get the process started.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 15, @11:36AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 15, @11:36AM (#509944)

        To find livable areas, you have to look where the atmosphere is ~ 1 bar (Earth surface pressure). On Venus that is about 50 km (check the links in this earlier post[1]), on Titan it looks like ~ 7 km up.[2]

        The mid latitude temperatures (long term average) at these pressures should be:

        Venus: sqrt(1/.723)*288 = 338 K
        Titan: sqrt(1/9.55)*288 = 93.2 K

        So the usual temperature on Titan at Earth pressure is approximately as cold as the lunar night.[3] Apparently Titan is anomalously cold though, so we should subtract ~ 9 K. [4]

        [1] https://soylentnews.org/comments.pl?cid=498922&sid=19150 [soylentnews.org]
        [2] https://atmos.nmsu.edu/PDS/data/PDS4/titan_profiles_bundle/data/RSS_T12_R022_P_X_14_E_16K.TAB [nmsu.edu] (Altitude : 2nd Column, Temperature: 3rd Column, Pressure: 4th Column)
        [3] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0019103516304869 [sciencedirect.com]
        [4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-greenhouse_effect [wikipedia.org]

  • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 15, @03:00AM (3 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 15, @03:00AM (#509721)

    Would anyone want to go to a brand-new world just to spend their lives in a cramped tunnel?

    Yes. They're called basement dwellers, they live in dark cramped spaces by choice, and they're antisocial loners who hate the Earth. Send them to another planet and everyone will be happier. The Facebook obsessed social media freaks don't want antisocial losers on their planet either.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 15, @09:05AM (2 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 15, @09:05AM (#509872)

      Hold on there cap. What's the internet going to be like on the new world. Basement dwellers need high speed connections to live comfortably.

      And potato chips. Looots of potato chips.

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by wisnoskij on Monday May 15, @03:01AM (3 children)

    >enough warm clothing
    Has anyone ever figured out what sort of clothing one would need to go out in a dense atmosphere at near absolute zero? First off it would need to be spacesuit suit quality, just a wiff of the air would freeze any skin it came in contact with instantly. But it would have to be so much more, space suits do not have to contend with 99% of heating or cooling as the vacuum around them provides very good insulation. While you might not be able to go out onto teh martian survafe without a few meters of shielding above your head, you might need to be swaddled in half a meter of insulation to survive titan.

    Also, polymers do not stand up to the cold. Make as much plastic as you like, but don't expect any of it to survive contact with the atmosphere.

    .14G also does not seem like enough to allow normal human functioning. The human body is far from guaranteed to survive long term in such low G conditions.

    --
    Respect my Authoritah!!!
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 15, @12:59PM (2 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 15, @12:59PM (#509985)

      Yeah I think someone who wrote this article does not understand heat transfer... which is understandable as I do believe that course is the bane of would be engineers, and for good measure.

      I kept rereading headline and wondering if we are talking about the same titan here....

      • (Score: 2) by AthanasiusKircher on Monday May 15, @02:21PM

        by AthanasiusKircher (5291) Subscriber Badge on Monday May 15, @02:21PM (#510022) Journal

        Yeah I think someone who wrote this article does not understand heat transfer... which is understandable as I do believe that course is the bane of would be engineers

        Lots of folks think thermo/heat transfer is a hard course... until they take fluid mechanics. Actually, I think it really depends on your math strengths. People who hate heat transfer generally hate the "messiness" of the solutions. It's often one of the first courses where a lot of stuff depends on looking up arbitrary stuff in tables to plug into weird partial derivative equations that make all sorts of arbitrary simplifying assumptions, rather than "pure" analytic solutions. Fluids has some of that too, but the math is generally a step up if you do it with any rigor; suddenly all that grad, div, curl, etc. stuff you've half-forgotten from the later semesters of calculus comes back with a vengeance.

      • (Score: 2) by HiThere on Monday May 15, @03:54PM

        by HiThere (866) on Monday May 15, @03:54PM (#510073)

        I think the heat transfer could probably be handled. I'm sort of imagining an advanced polymer with huge numbers of embedded micro-vacuum bottles. The outside of a Dewar flask never gets very cold. So make your vacuum bottles the size of a baby aspirin, and use lots of them. The real problem would be flexibility, but because pressures are about equal this would be less of a problem than in space. You *would* need a specially designed plastic matrix to maintain flexibility when cold.

        --
        Put not your faith in princes.
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 15, @03:11AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 15, @03:11AM (#509729)

    Instead of fuel tanks, you use oxidizer tanks. It's flipped around, but the chemistry works just the same.

  • (Score: 2) by Dunbal on Monday May 15, @03:39AM (8 children)

    by Dunbal (3515) on Monday May 15, @03:39AM (#509742)

    Because creating oxygen-containing habitats on a world chock full of hydrocarbons doesn't present its own very special set of issues. There are lots of variables we can change. Our dependence on a 20% or so oxygen atmosphere to breathe is not one of them. Heck just cleaning potential combustibles off any environmental suit and equipment after a trip "outside" would be a major, major undertaking, not to mention the need to constantly vent contaminated atmosphere out of the airlocks because you don't want ANY of that stuff getting inside - it contains cyanides which are also not exactly friendly to our biology. Honestly I think vacuum would be easier to deal with. John Timmer clearly was just contemplating his navel and not thinking seriously. I'd rather deal with radiation which I can deal with by several feet of dirt than cyanides that can seep through the tiniest failed seal or improperly decontaminated equipment or a spark detonating my entire base because some organic molecule or other managed to work its way in somewhere.

    • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Monday May 15, @03:53AM (7 children)

      by kaszz (4211) on Monday May 15, @03:53AM (#509749) Journal

      Maybe 4.9% CH4 and 0.2% H2 can be handled. But you surely identified another important issue. Fail to decontaminate .. *BOOM* Just like in the Martian movie where the airlock blows up, but this one will be for real.

      • (Score: 2) by Dunbal on Monday May 15, @04:04AM (6 children)

        by Dunbal (3515) on Monday May 15, @04:04AM (#509752)

        Provided the cyanide doesn't kill you first. 70 parts per million and you're dead in an hour.

        • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Monday May 15, @04:07AM

          by kaszz (4211) on Monday May 15, @04:07AM (#509755) Journal

          It's supposedly "trace amounts". The question then becomes how large proportion there really is?

        • (Score: 4, Interesting) by kaszz on Monday May 15, @04:57AM (4 children)

          by kaszz (4211) on Monday May 15, @04:57AM (#509769) Journal

          I found the answer in Solar System Astrophysics: Planetary Atmospheres and the Outer Solar System (2014) [google.com] by AvEugene F. Milone,William J.F. Wilson on page 560. Which states that:

          Constituent                       Amount
          N2             (Nitrogen)         80 - 98%
          CH4            (Methane)          0.1 - 20%  [2.2% at 850 km]
          Ar             (Argon)            <1%
          CO             (Carbon monoxide)  29 - 52 ppm
          H2             (Hydrogen)         [20 ppm]
          C2H6           (Ethane)           1 - 15 ppm
          C2H4           (Ethylene)         0.01 - 15 ppm
          C2H2           (Acetylene)        2-5 ppm
          C3H8           (Propane)          0.04 - 0.7 ppm
          CH3C2H         (Methylacetylene)  0.004 - 0.5 ppm
          HCN            (Hydrogen cyanide) 0.05 - 0.5 ppm
          HC3N           (Cyanoacetylene)   <= 0.002 - 0.03 ppm
          CO2            (Carbon dioxide)   0.001 - 0.04 ppm
          C2N2           (Cyanogen)         <= 0.002 - 0.006 ppm
          H2O            (Water)            4 ppb

          And as for toxicity:

          Hydrogen cyanide: LClo 107 ppm (human, 10 min)
          Cyanoacetylene: LDlo? LD50?
          Cyanogen: Recommended exposure limit, 10 ppm
          Ethane: Suffocation risk only, ie replacing oxygen
          Ethylene: Daily exposure limit, 200 ppm
          Acetylene: Recommended exposure limit, 2500 ppm

          It actually seems the atmosphere might be alright from a acute toxicity point of view. Though no MSDS for cyanoacetylene..

          • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Dunbal on Monday May 15, @05:04AM (3 children)

            by Dunbal (3515) on Monday May 15, @05:04AM (#509774)

            The problem is not necessarily in the atmosphere. At these temperatures (-179 C) a lot of the above compounds will be in solid form so they won't be "in the atmosphere". But you thought bringing slush covered muddy boots into the house was bad, wait until you get melting/boiling cyanide and all those other toxics all over your little moonbase carpet...

            • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Monday May 15, @05:26AM (2 children)

              by kaszz (4211) on Monday May 15, @05:26AM (#509783) Journal

              I think you can scrub those compounds away. And it can be handled like on Mars where the outside of the suit never enters the habitat due to dust.

              Can't find any data on what the soil consists of. But atmospheric gases are unlikely to solidify on a shoe that has a higher temperature than the surrounding atmosphere.

              • (Score: 2) by mhajicek on Monday May 15, @06:08AM (1 child)

                by mhajicek (51) on Monday May 15, @06:08AM (#509799)

                Just to a flash burnoff in your airlock / decon room.

                • (Score: 3, Interesting) by kaszz on Monday May 15, @06:13AM

                  by kaszz (4211) on Monday May 15, @06:13AM (#509804) Journal

                  Don't need to fill the airlock with oxygen. It can be filled with room tempered nitrogen instead which will vaporize most stuff. While not enabling any burning. The Titan atmosphere is full of N2.

  • (Score: 3, Informative) by kaszz on Monday May 15, @03:47AM (3 children)

    by kaszz (4211) on Monday May 15, @03:47AM (#509745) Journal

    Distance: (1.350e12-149597870700) / (206.7e9-149597870700) = 21.022020 times!

    So it will take 21 times the boredom in a cramped caravan to get there. Ie 4.6 - 8.6 years spent in this metal cylinder while smelling your fellow astronauts 24/7. This will strain logistics hard and be a liability in case of problems. Increase exposure to radiation events and low gravity on the human body.

    Temperature:
    Mars Minimum: −143 °C Mean: −63 °C Maximum: 35 °C
    Titan: −179.5 °C

    Seen those cold nitrogen experiments? try living inside such bottle for days..

    Most materials will also be really a lot more brittle. Which affects safety issues. Or maybe your ascent rocket engine won't work. Just like your car has trouble starting on a really.. really.. cold day.

    Now visiting and exploring Titan is one thing. Colonizing, NO!
    Venus is a better option in that case. It has atmosphere, heat and gravity. It's possible to stay alive there by building floating habitats providing there isn't too bad storms and the equipment can handle the acidic issues. Then there's Earths moon or just a free floating habitat.

    If there's ever a long interplanetary expedition. Let's hope there's no John Timmers with poor judgement.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 15, @01:03PM (2 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 15, @01:03PM (#509989)

      Yeah it's some asshole who read a sci-fi book writing the article. All your points are valid. Mars is by far the best option. Venus atmosphere has problems because there are not raw materials available. Unless we could somehow blast the atmosphere off and the surface turned out not to be as volcanic any longer as the conditions that created the hell we see now.

      • (Score: 2) by HiThere on Monday May 15, @03:57PM

        by HiThere (866) on Monday May 15, @03:57PM (#510076)

        Personally, I think the asteroids are the best goal, but Mars is an acceptable intermediate step. We don't really have the technology to do either of them properly yet, but Mars might be marginally doable.

        --
        Put not your faith in princes.
      • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Tuesday May 16, @08:13PM

        by kaszz (4211) on Tuesday May 16, @08:13PM (#510721) Journal

        No need to blast the atmosphere away. If you can find a gigantic calcium oxide asteroid this can be solved by crashing into the planet surface. It will react with the carbon dioxide and form limestone effectively cleaning the atmosphere.

        The problem is mainly finding such asteroid nearby..

  • (Score: 4, Funny) by Weasley on Monday May 15, @02:22PM (2 children)

    by Weasley (6421) on Monday May 15, @02:22PM (#510023)

    Why don't we just colonize the sun? Don't have to deal with the bitter cold. Plenty of solar power. Did you know the night is 8 days long on Titan? On the sun it's day time all the time. My tomatoes will love it.

(1)