NASA has unveiled the design for a new submarine, which they hope would explore the Titan’s massive seas of liquid methane.
NASA unveiled the Titan Submarine Phase I Conceptual Design at the Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC) symposium held in Cocoa Beach in Florida. The design was created by the scientists from the NASA Glenn Research Center.
Titan is the largest moon of Saturn. It is the only natural satellite known to have a dense atmosphere and the only object other than Earth where clear evidence of stable bodies of surface liquid has been found. Titan’s diameter is 50% larger than Earth’s natural satellite, the Moon, and it is 80% more massive. It is the second-largest moon in the Solar System, after Jupiter’s moon Ganymede, and is bigger than Mercury. It has three polar seas made up of methane and ethane. The gases of those seas are similar in composition to liquefied natural gas, and the largest of these seas, Kraken Mare, is the intended destination of NASA’s submarine.
The Kraken Mare spans 154,000 square miles over the moon’s north pole and goes as deep as 160 meters by some estimates and 300 meters by others. Astronomers have stated that Kraken Mare has tides due to the gravitational pull of Saturn and complex shorelines lined with deposits of mineral sediment called evaporite. NASA believes that by studying the Kraken Mare, they will be able to understand the rich chemistry and climate history of Titan.
The Titan submarine will have an elongated shape and will weigh 2,200 lbs, or one ton. It will use a 1kW radiothermal Stirling generator to produce one kilowatt of power that will allow it to travel at 2.2 miles per hour. It will also have a special piston-driven system to prevent the nitrogen ballasts from freezing in the icy cold depths of Kraken Mare. The submarine will come to the surface every 16 hours to transmit data back to Earth using a planar phased array antenna mounted on a large dorsal fin. While on the surface, the submarine will also take images of the surrounding environment using a mast camera.
NASA still hasn’t worked out how they will transport and more importantly land this submarine on the moon, but they hope to send the submarine to Titan around 2040.