Saturn’s orange moon Titan is rich in liquid hydrocarbons according to findings of NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. Huge deposits are collected in lakes and dunes. Practically speaking, commercialization is decades away and maybe the stuff of the next century. Nonetheless, Saturn’s Titan has the potential to become a permanent game changer sooner rather than later.
“Titan is just covered in carbon-bearing material, it’s a giant factory of organic chemicals,” says Ralph Lorenz, Cassini radar team member from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. “This vast carbon inventory is an important window into the geology and climate history of Titan.”
The Titan Mare Explorer, or TiME, will perform the first direct inspection of an ocean environment beyond Earth by landing in, and floating on, a large methane-ethane sea on this murky and complex moon. The TiME capsule launches circa 2016 and reaches Titan by 2023, by parachuting onto the moon’s second-largest northern sea, the Ligeia Mare. For 3 months, the capsule will study the composition and behavior of the sea and its interaction with Titan’s weather and climate. TiME also seeks to gather evidence of the complex organic chemistry that may be active on Titan. 1)
A lightning storm has continued unabated on Saturn since mid-January. The lightning flashes are 10,000 times stronger than flashes on Earth according to research team member Georg Fischer, of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.
If data on the lightening flashes are correct, the vibrational forces from the
lightening would make life on Saturn very tenuous indeed.
Confirmation earlier this year of Titan’s hydrocarbon lakes makes the Saturn moon the first place other than Earth where open bodies of liquid have been found. This means that the strength of Titan’s magnetic field is constantly changing , leaving its surface more vulnerable to damaging cosmic rays. 2)
Without stable protection from radiation “the existence of life is very unlikely” according to Morente. 3) The presence of crude oil implies that an animal life form existed on that planet, and their bodies decomposed without enough air/gas to decompose properly (as is how the crude oil formed on earth). Titan’s water stock is frozen into chunks as hard as granite. 4) If those ice “rocks” melted, the environment could become more hospitable to the building blocks of life. With liquid water, the planet could host the formation of amino acids and full proteins.
Cassini’s observations of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, have given scientists a glimpse of what Earth might have been like before life evolved. They now believe Titan possesses many parallels to Earth, including channels, dunes, rain, snow, hills, mountains and possibly sporadic volcanic activity.
Icy particles from the surface jets collectively form a huge plume three times taller than the width of Enceladus. The moon’s diameter is about 300 miles. It is believed that the plume feeds particles into Saturn’s most expansive ring, the E ring. Already in the extended mission, the spacecraft has come as close as 15 miles from the moon surface. 5)
The science goals of space study on Saturn are to understand the sources, as well as the disposition of Saturn’s plasma, its acceleration and movement.
The brief reconnaissance encounters of the Pioneer 11 and the two Voyager spacecraft have provided most of our current information about the structure and dynamics of Saturn’s magnetosphere.
Details of the magnetosphere are set forth: 6)
Suppose there is a large quantity of natural gas on Titan. How would this natural gas be extracted and transported to the earth? These details will be the subject of scientific inquiry this century and next.
Floating Liquefied Natural Gas (FLNG) is an innovative technology designed to enable the exploitation of offshore gas resources that would otherwise remain undeveloped. 7 ) Due to environmental or economic factors, it is not yet economically feasible to develop these sources via a land-based LNG operation. 8)
In essence, FLNG is defined as either a ship or barge that can sail or be towed to offshore gas discoveries. The technology can be employed to extract gas, freeze it to a liquefied form or offload the LNG to tankers.
Since all processing is done at the gas field, there is no requirement for long pipelines to shore or compression units to pump the gas to shore.These advantages reduce significantly the environmental footprint anywhere.
In addition, environmental disturbances will be minimized during decommissioning because the facility can easily be disconnected and removed prior to being re-deployed elsewhere. Translating these manufacturing advantages onto Titan, the natural gas could be extracted and refined solely on the planet. The refinery and transport might be done by unmanned robotic vehicles, dirigibles and robots emulating human mechanical capabilities. There are other technological issues to overcome like transporting the FLNG from Titan to the earth or to nearby planets where significant manufacturing or reprocessing can occur.
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