NASA is planning to send a submarine to Saturn’s largest moon by 2040 to study Titan’s hydrocarbon oceans. Titan is the only celestial body in the solar system other than Earth that is known to host liquid lakes and seas on its surface.
Titan’s atmosphere is a mix of methane, nitrogen, and argon, and its surface has liquid methane oceans and lakes. Atmospheric pressure is 50 percent higher than Earth at sea level.
The submarine will be carried to Titan by a spacecraft similar to the X-37 Orbital Test Vehicle. The spacecraft would decelerate on contact with Titan’s dense atmosphere and glide into Titan’s Kraken Mare, where the sub would be ejected from the spacecraft.
The submarine’s radiothermal Sterling generator can propel the craft at about 4 kmph and generates heat to keep the craft from freezing in the liquid methane sea.
The submarine will measure the alien sea’s chemistry, currents and tides, as well as hunt for evidence of organic life. At surface level the craft is able to transmit data directly back to Earth via its antenna.
NASA hopes that by studying Titan’s Kraken Mare, the mission could reveal whether environmental conditions hospitable to life may be found on planets and moons outside our solar system.
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