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Thread: Let's colonize Titan

  1. #61
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    Robert Zubrin apparently has many, many arguments in favor of Titan colonization, but none of them can be linked to, as they are in copyrighted books. Alas.

    There is currently loads of research showing that microgravity ("zero gee") is bad for humans in the long run. There is no research showing that partial gravity, such as the Moon's, is bad for humans. So the jury is out, but the existence of partial gravity works against some of the effects of microgravity (blood redistribution, etc.).
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    Quote Originally Posted by eburacum45 View Post
    I didn't think of this earlier, but the thick atmosphere of Titan would be a steady source of wind power, assuming there is any atmospheric movement at all. The dense atmosphere would turn a turbine even at fairly low speeds.

    From here, it appears that wind speeds are low, but there may be storms at certain times of year.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_of_Titan
    Actually... you might have a point. I stand corrected.

    ===

    https://www.nature.com/articles/s41561-018-0233-2

    Observational evidence for active dust storms on Titan at equinox

    Rodriguez, S., et al.
    Nature Geoscience, Volume 11, Issue 10, p.727-732
    Publication Date: 09/2018

    Saturn's moon Titan has a dense nitrogen-rich atmosphere, with methane as its primary volatile. Titan's atmosphere experiences an active chemistry that produces a haze of organic aerosols that settle to the surface and a dynamic climate in which hydrocarbons are cycled between clouds, rain and seas. Titan displays particularly energetic meteorology at equinox in equatorial regions, including sporadic and large methane storms. In 2009 and 2010, near Titan's northern spring equinox, the Cassini spacecraft observed three distinctive and short-lived spectral brightenings close to the equator. Here, we show from analyses of Cassini spectral data, radiative transfer modelling and atmospheric simulations that the brightenings originate in the atmosphere and are consistent with formation from dust storms composed of micrometre-sized solid organic particles mobilized from underlying dune fields. Although the Huygens lander found evidence that dust can be kicked up locally from Titan's surface, our findings suggest that dust can be suspended in Titan's atmosphere at much larger spatial scale. Mobilization of dust and injection into the atmosphere would require dry conditions and unusually strong near-surface winds (about five times more than estimated ambient winds). Such strong winds are expected to occur in downbursts during rare equinoctial methane storms—consistent with the timing of the observed brightenings. Our findings imply that Titan—like Earth and Mars—has an active dust cycle, which suggests that Titan's dune fields are actively evolving by aeolian processes.
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  3. #63
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger E. Moore View Post
    There is currently loads of research showing that microgravity ("zero gee") is bad for humans in the long run. There is no research showing that partial gravity, such as the Moon's, is bad for humans. So the jury is out, but the existence of partial gravity works against some of the effects of microgravity (blood redistribution, etc.).
    Actually, come to think of it, one good reason for establishing a (small) colony on the surface of Titan (or the moon or Mars) would be to be able to find out the effects, in the same way that the ISS has provided us with lots of data on the effects of microgravity.
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    Internet access from Titan will be horrible. I've changed my mind about volunteering.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger E. Moore View Post
    IF it works to build a spinning 1g space station. Not yet proven or built.
    "
    It's been studied and calculated by many very skilled engineers. It's far less speculative as a safe place to live than Titan! And Titanian habitats (which also have never been built) would require just as much or more engineering.

    So, to the articles.

    Titan has power sources: A good reason for industries on its surface. We don't need to live there.
    Titan has resources: Again, useful but not a reason for settlement. There will doubtlessly be exports of those resources to space, so putting a hab in orbit will not be much additional burden.
    Titan can be terraformed: Call me back when it's done. Until then it still seems unsuited to humans.
    Titan has an atmosphere: As you repeatedly pointed out, but one good feature does not a homestead make.
    Titan is Earthlike?: No, it really isn't. It's "oceans and lakes" would be instantly lethal, I don't know why they're brought up in the context of colonization at all.

    I don't really find the arguments presented convincing, or the problems of temperature, partial gravity, and toxic chemistry they handwave away as so easily dismissed. Sure, it has good radiation shielding. That's a plus. For everything else... there's orbit.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    Actually, come to think of it, one good reason for establishing a (small) colony on the surface of Titan (or the moon or Mars) would be to be able to find out the effects, in the same way that the ISS has provided us with lots of data on the effects of microgravity.
    Testing the effects of partial G could be done on a slow spinning space station, locally, or on Mars which has similar gravity. But a small long term test case settlement on Titan would allow the discovery of other hazards of the surface, for those willing to risk their lives at it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    Actually, come to think of it, one good reason for establishing a (small) colony on the surface of Titan (or the moon or Mars) would be to be able to find out the effects, in the same way that the ISS has provided us with lots of data on the effects of microgravity.
    The Moon for sure, if we want to do it in the next fifty years or so. Cassini took about seven years to get to Saturn. You might get there a little faster on chemical rockets, but not by much. You would need a NERVA style (nuclear thermal) rocket at least to get a bit more delta-v, and that would be marginal. I wouldn't expect an antarctic style base on Titan until maybe the start of the 22nd century.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck View Post
    Internet access from Titan will be horrible. I've changed my mind about volunteering.
    Fake news. Titan has the best internet in the Milky Way. Trust me.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    Actually, come to think of it, one good reason for establishing a (small) colony on the surface of Titan (or the moon or Mars) would be to be able to find out the effects, in the same way that the ISS has provided us with lots of data on the effects of microgravity.
    I am inclined to agree. We cannot know the effects of lunar gravity on long-term scales without living there as long as we've had astronauts & cosmonauts in microgravity. Lunar bases should resolve that.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    I don't really find the arguments presented convincing, or the problems of temperature, partial gravity, and toxic chemistry they handwave away as so easily dismissed. Sure, it has good radiation shielding. That's a plus. For everything else... there's orbit.
    Then we will disagree. Say on as you will.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger E. Moore View Post
    Then we will disagree. Say on as you will.
    There's no reason not to do both. Set up an orbital hab (one among many) and a small surface settlement, see which survives/prospers. Maybe both will. Maybe neither.

    We could have a space habitat with extra life support to spare, because if the initial surface hab fails, its populace could be evacuated off-moon. (Assuming the population hasn't already grown too large.)
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    There's no reason not to do both. Set up an orbital hab (one among many) and a small surface settlement, see which survives/prospers. Maybe both will. Maybe neither.
    I'm not disagreeing with the idea of doing both (I think it would be a good idea) but I think that there is perhaps some disconnect in the way we are thinking about this, probably because of the word "colonize." My assumption is that it would not be like a group of people getting on a ship and setting out for a new land, but rather a government sponsored program that would be done deliberately and in a very planned way, so that there wouldn't really be a question of survival or "prospering." In the beginning, I would see it much more like the South Pole station or the ISS, where crews are sent to do experimentation, with upgrades being made to either type to tweak it it make things survivable. Even the ISS took more than a hundred launches with various equipment to build. I think it would take so long to make something where people could "prosper" that the technical challenges would gradually come to be understood and overcome. I would definitely see it, at least at the beginning, as an experiment that might grow into something more.

    Also, in an earlier post, you wrote:

    But a small long term test case settlement on Titan would allow the discovery of other hazards of the surface, for those willing to risk their lives at it.
    I think that is's a given with space exploration that you are willing to risk your life at it. Certainly Apollo was like that. So I think what you wrote is natural and a given.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    I'm not disagreeing with the idea of doing both (I think it would be a good idea) but I think that there is perhaps some disconnect in the way we are thinking about this, probably because of the word "colonize." My assumption is that it would not be like a group of people getting on a ship and setting out for a new land, but rather a government sponsored program that would be done deliberately and in a very planned way, so that there wouldn't really be a question of survival or "prospering." In the beginning, I would see it much more like the South Pole station or the ISS, where crews are sent to do experimentation, with upgrades being made to either type to tweak it it make things survivable. Even the ISS took more than a hundred launches with various equipment to build. I think it would take so long to make something where people could "prosper" that the technical challenges would gradually come to be understood and overcome. I would definitely see it, at least at the beginning, as an experiment that might grow into something more.
    I'm thinking the real test of a colony comes AFTER the completely planned out beginning phase, when everyone knows what to do and where everything is. I think of the old Mir, which was in orbit so long that ground control forgot what certain parts of the space station did, having lost some of the manuals. The Mir lost out to the later ISS and was abandoned, reentering.

    A lunar colony or other world colony, however, stays there. The astronauts might eventually abandon it as plans change, or the base gets sold to another power, which comes in with its own team to fix things up (ignoring the cries of those on Earth asking them to let it be "for history's sake"). It would be amusing to see how many changes a locale could go through over time as one group leaves and a new one comes in.
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  14. #74
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    I'm not disagreeing with the idea of doing both (I think it would be a good idea) but I think that there is perhaps some disconnect in the way we are thinking about this, probably because of the word "colonize." My assumption is that it would not be like a group of people getting on a ship and setting out for a new land, but rather a government sponsored program that would be done deliberately and in a very planned way, so that there wouldn't really be a question of survival or "prospering." In the beginning, I would see it much more like the South Pole station or the ISS, where crews are sent to do experimentation, with upgrades being made to either type to tweak it it make things survivable. Even the ISS took more than a hundred launches with various equipment to build. I think it would take so long to make something where people could "prosper" that the technical challenges would gradually come to be understood and overcome. I would definitely see it, at least at the beginning, as an experiment that might grow into something more.

    Also, in an earlier post, you wrote:

    I think that is's a given with space exploration that you are willing to risk your life at it. Certainly Apollo was like that. So I think what you wrote is natural and a given.
    Well, I'm not really talking about Arctic bases or government science projects or company towns. I'm considering settlers, coming to live there because they want that place to be their home. People who live on Titan 'til they die and raise children there.

    I don't expect Titan to be the first or even second place people decide to colonize. It's too far out and a bit too challenging to be a starter set. We'll probably have people living their lives for a couple of generations in easier extraterrestrial locales before we have a permanent human presence on Titan or any of the outer moons.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Well, I'm not really talking about Arctic bases or government science projects or company towns. I'm considering settlers, coming to live there because they want that place to be their home. People who live on Titan 'til they die and raise children there.
    A company town or long-term research facility could turn into the core of a human colony. If people live in a place long enough, without being rotated out, and the base is self-sufficient for the most part, there you go. It's a colony.

    In a real sense, a human-crewed base on any outer planet area, from Mars onward to Triton, will have to be a long-term set-up. It will have to make a lot of money to sustain operations. Personnel change-outs might start out regular but will come at long intervals. It's a short move from there, growing food and having reliable maintenance, to having a colony.
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    Now that I have read the dictionary definition of a "colony", it seems we are using a somewhat different definition of the word at times.

    Colony: "a group of people who leave their native country to form in a new land a settlement subject to, or connected with, the parent nation."

    I realize I tend to abuse the term in implying some colonies are independent of their founding countries, states, companies, or organizations. Not sure how to resolve that.
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  17. #77
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    Does anyone have a copy of Zubrin's The Case for Space handy? How much does it detail settlements on outer moons and planets? Just curious if the book says anything striking and new and original, aside from what's been covered here or in the Callisto thread. Thank you! Also might get it for my Kindle.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger E. Moore View Post
    Now that I have read the dictionary definition of a "colony", it seems we are using a somewhat different definition of the word at times.

    Colony: "a group of people who leave their native country to form in a new land a settlement subject to, or connected with, the parent nation."

    I realize I tend to abuse the term in implying some colonies are independent of their founding countries, states, companies, or organizations. Not sure how to resolve that.
    Space colonies are a different use of the term. They reference biological colonization, not political. Spreading life to where there was none.
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    It strikes me that the creation of an independent colony might be the LAST thing certain groups want to do, be the groups political/ religious/ corporate/ private/ etc. It's a control question. However, other groups might view the establishment of independent colonies on other worlds as a financial benefit: keep mining and we'll keep coming buy, buying the ore, and shipping it home.

    The best position might be in the middle, at first. The colony works for the agency that established it, but the agency is responsible for the colony's survival and existence by sending supplies to it. If the agency closes the colony, it is responsible for picking everyone up.

    Does it work that way in real life or fiction? No. The space station Mir went through the dissolution of the USSR and the appearance of an independent Russia, which put its cosmonauts in a fix. IIRC, Heinlein's Stranger in the Strange Land begins with the establishment of a Mars colony, which is inadvertently abandoned because of nuclear war on Earth. The Mars colonies of Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles are abandoned and the colonists flee to Earth, where an atomic war is taking place.

    The best thing for any colony to do is become self-sufficient as soon as possible, by any sustainable means possible.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger E. Moore View Post
    Now that I have read the dictionary definition of a "colony", it seems we are using a somewhat different definition of the word at times.

    Colony: "a group of people who leave their native country to form in a new land a settlement subject to, or connected with, the parent nation."

    I realize I tend to abuse the term in implying some colonies are independent of their founding countries, states, companies, or organizations. Not sure how to resolve that.
    I'd sort of forgotten that I'm actually the one who started this thread.

    I don't think we really need to get tied into definitions. If you want to discuss it in one way, I don't see any problem, it's just best to be clear about what you mean.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger E. Moore View Post
    The best thing for any colony to do is become self-sufficient as soon as possible, by any sustainable means possible.
    I agree wholeheartedly, for a variety of reasons. Especially in space where Earth-originating goods are always at a premium, and always at the mercy of unpredictable economic and political forces.

    However, other groups might view the establishment of independent colonies on other worlds as a financial benefit: keep mining and we'll keep coming buy, buying the ore, and shipping it home.
    I disagree with this part. Barring the finding of something only humans can get or make in space, robot mining and manufacturing will be cheaper than human colonies. Space colonies will not, initially, be net sources of money or materials. Life support is expensive, technically challenging, and an inefficient use of resources. Worker's* quarters in space if any, will likely be temporary or aboard mobile space vessels. But no one's going to retire onto an oil rig, and no one wants to raise kids in a work camp.

    No, colonization of space has to be an end in itself, a goal to work towards. The profit motive will only get robots up there, we need more to put mag-boots on deckplates. Permanent habitats will have to be built specifically as good places to live long term for adults and children, and made to last for many generations, or they'll fail and end.

    Building such advanced structures is not going to happen soon. Heck, we don't even have "oil rigs" up there right now, just a couple of lonely tents in our backyard. The first steps will be as you describe, building places to work. But these will hopefully be stepping stones to larger projects, longer stays, and eventually to population emigrating into space for its own sake. Their motive can range from building a new society, to escaping persecution (real and perceived) on Earth. But, they'll have nowhere to go if we don't first build up our skills at making human habitation in space possible at all. Technology and improved knowledge of ecology, especially small closed ecosystems, will be vital to doing that. But the most valuable teacher will be experience.

    And Titan will probably have to wait a bit longer than that.

    /rant



    *Robot operators and technicians. And life support specialists to keep them alive.
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    The question rises as to whether anyone will want to go to Titan to settle it.

    When Mars One was around, 202,000+ people volunteered to be Mars colonists. I have a suspicion that even with all the negative aspects known, there will be no shortage of people volunteering to be colonists on a self-sufficient settlement on another world. Titan at present would be a hard sale, and it certainly does not have the drawing power of Mars, but with faster and safer spacecraft that could change. If private spaceflight is the main driver, all sorts of colonies could be established in different places. Knowing you can flap wings and fly on Titan might motivate some, but I would guess not the majority. Just being part of history is a heck of a motivator.

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    I just want to reiterate that a non-rotating ice shell on an orbital hab can be arbitrarily thick, and plasma shields against particle radiation are being worked on even now. So an atmosphere's protection, while good, may not prove necessary in the end.
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    The biggest advantage I can see for (at least some) worlds over space based habitats is that they have the resources so a habitat doesn't need to have the same level of closure for its life support system.

    Current systems like what ISS has is mechanical, it has some closure for atmosphere and water, but food has to be shipped in. Even the atmosphere and water closure is limited. That would be impractical for anything beyond some lunar stations or much of anything serious. If you can extract water and breathing air using ISRU, you can at least deal with some of the closure issues being faced today, though food production would still be a big issue that needs much more research.

    But as I said earlier, a big problem with Titan is getting there first, so you need high closure systems before you land.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Van Rijn View Post
    The biggest advantage I can see for (at least some) worlds over space based habitats is that they have the resources so a habitat doesn't need to have the same level of closure for its life support system.
    Any ET habitat will need easy access to resources like volatiles in some fashion, as part of a larger space-based infrastructure. They'd need lots of the stuff just to build an ecosystem on site. So continuing access to some cheap and plentiful source of those materials, and the capacity to deliver it long distances, is key to making those habitats viable. For instance like carbonaceous asteroids or comets with low gravity wells. Making up losses would be relatively easy in such a system. A Titan surface base would have a slight advantage in that regard, but not an insurmountable one.

    Long range spacecraft, like those needed to transport colonists to circum-Saturn, will basically be cycler stations. They too will need an ongoing supply of volatiles as propellant and for life support.
    Last edited by Noclevername; 2019-Jun-22 at 07:07 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    I just want to reiterate that a non-rotating ice shell on an orbital hab can be arbitrarily thick, and plasma shields against particle radiation are being worked on even now.
    I’m not sure about the plasma shields, but for the ice shield, how would you make it?


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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    I’m not sure about the plasma shields, but for the ice shield, how would you make it?
    What do you mean? O'Neill et al have created designs with static shells for shielding, are you talking about how to engineer it or how to manufacture and assemble it? I'm not an expert at either process.
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    I mean, where will you get the ice for the shield?


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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    I mean, where will you get the ice for the shield?


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    Same place you get all the materials for building a large structure in space, asteroid mining.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Same place you get all the materials for building a large structure in space, asteroid mining.
    So I guess a next question comes up. If we conclude that colonizing the surface of any planet is much worse than using orbital habitats, then what the is the advantage of building an orbital habitat anywhere than around earth? Less radiation in other places? I mean, there's plenty of real estate in our immediate vicinity.
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