Could Saturn’s Moon Titan make a good home for the first human settlers in space?

Titan is the only place besides Earth known to have liquids in the form of lakes and seas on its surface.


The Earth becoming inhabitable in the near future looks more likely with each passing decade. If there comes a day when humans aren't fit to live on it anymore, a NASA engineer has proposed that settling on Saturn’s moon Titan could be worth considering.

The engineer, Janelle Wellons, has many reasons why Titan would make for a good place to live. The most compelling one is that you might be able to fly by simply flapping your arms!

"It has a thick atmosphere that could help protect us from space radiation," Wellons wrote on Reddit. "It is so dense that we could actually attach wings to our arms and fly on this moon. I don’t know, it just seems like an awesome place to live."

Could Saturn’s Moon Titan make a good home for the first human settlers in space?

Titan poses in front of Saturn in this mosaic image from NASA's Cassini mission. Image: NASA/JPL

Wellon was one of five NASA engineers, scientists, pilots and project managers that made a Reddit appearance to answer questions from the public in a Women's History Month special.

One Redditor asked where in space the team would recommend humans settle if conditions on Earth became untenable. Wellons volunteered a "more interesting answer than the standard Mars or Moon response," as the Redittor pointed out.

New research provides evidence of rainfall on the north pole of Titan – the largest of Saturn’s moons. The rainfall would be significant to researchers, who have been waiting to spot the first signs of summer in the moon’s northern hemisphere. Image: NASA/JPL

New research provides evidence of rainfall on the north pole of Titan – the largest of Saturn’s moons. The rainfall would be significant to researchers, who have been waiting to spot the first signs of summer in the moon’s northern hemisphere. Image: NASA/JPL

"How about we consider one of the water worlds in our solar system — Titan," she wrote. "Titan is the largest moon of Saturn, larger than the planet Mercury even, so I think we could settle with plenty room."

Wellon may have thrown a nice idea into the mix for popular science, but there are definite downsides to Titan that researchers and astronauts ought to consider. Titan gets about one percent of the sunlight that Earth does. According to NASA’s research, the temperature on Titan at its warmest is a wintry -292 degrees Fahrenheit.

In spite of those drawbacks, Wellon is still a fan of the idea.

"Now as for the conditions on the surface — not as rough as you may think," she wrote. "Titan is the only place besides Earth known to have liquids in the form of lakes and seas on its surface. These liquids are made of methane but, armed with the right kind of protective gear, one could theoretically be able to swim without harm!"

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