NASA got confirmation from its Cassini space probe of what is thought to be the largest body of liquid on Saturn’s moon, Titan. Titan is also the only place in our solar system where the space agency discovered surface liquids. It is also the place where NASA wants to send an autonomous submarine.
The 400 thousand square kilometer ocean was nicknamed Kraken Mare after a legendary sea monster. Titan’s lakes and rivers are thought to contain a lethal mixture of methane and ethane. Any lifeforms that would be detected in this harsh environment would have to be very resilient.
The potential NASA submarine would carry out detailed scientific investigations deep beneath Titan’s northern ocean. According to the space agency, the submarine would provide new insights of extraterrestrial seas and expand existing capabilities in planetary exploration to include nautical operations.
NASA currently has a number of concepts for exploring alien oceans, however, the majority usually involved on simple ideas such as sending suspended probes.
“As such, no one has yet envisioned what such craft might look like, how it would operate or if it could be built,” notes NASA’s mission website.
Regardless, NASA has developed a conceptual mission design for the Titan Submarine and hopes to launch the mission within the next 20 years.
The University of Washington has been helping the space agency to simulate the condition such a craft would encounter when it lands on Titan. Researchers from the WSU recently announced that they have built a test chamber to house a liquid mixture at very cold temperatures to simulate the Kraken Mare sea.
According to NASA, one of the biggest obstacles for designing the submarine would be the appearance of bubbles. The submarine would be powered by a heat-producing machine, something which would cause nitrogen bubbles once it comes in contact with Titan’s cold liquid. Such bubbles would make the submarine difficult to maneuver.
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