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NASA May Send Submarine To Explore Saturn's Moon Titan

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A Ballet By Saturn's Moons, Based On Tchaikovsky's 'Nutcracker Suite'
The US space agency is planning to send a submarine to Titan, which is Saturn's largest moon. The submarine is going to explore the satellite's vast liquid ocean.  ( Caltech/Space Science Institute | NASA/JPL )

U.S. space agency NASA wants to embark on an ambitious mission. It is planning to send a submarine to investigate the huge liquid ocean on Titan, the largest moon of Saturn.

The ocean, dubbed Kraken Mare after the legendary marine creature, was discovered in 2008 during the Cassini space probe. It measures 400,000 sq. km.

Saturn's Moon Titan

Titan is the only known celestial body to host large bodies of surface liquid, which flow through streams and rivers into seas and lakes similar to the process on earth. The liquid, however, is mostly made up of hydrocarbons like ethane and methane, and not water.

Astrobiologists speculate that the moon may be able to host life, however, those life-forms would appear extremely different from what is found on Earth.

Submarine To Explore The Ocean

To date, all the missions that have been proposed for investigating extraterrestrial oceans have mostly meant simple operations that involve probing into deep seas.

The new proposed project wants to send a craft, but it is still not clear how such a craft could be built, how it will operate, or how it will look even.

"The mission concept we propose to study will investigate a full spectrum of oceanographic phenomena: chemical composition of the liquid, surface and subsurface currents, mixing and layering in the “water” column, tides, wind and waves, bathymetry, and bottom features and composition," NASA stated. "Measurements of all these aspects of Titan’s hydrocarbon ocean environment can only be made through focused in situ exploration with a well-instrumented craft."

The submarine is still in the concept stage, but it will have features to facilitate it to dive under the ocean surface to carry out scientific explorations. It is not an easy prospect as the autonomous vehicle has to work in liquid hydrocarbon seas with a temperature of -184 degree Celcius and more.

Transporting a submarine to Titan also means that an advanced spacecraft has to carry the heavy payload to the moon, which is 1.4 billion kilometers from Earth.

At present, a research team from the University of Washington has collaborated with NASA to carry out experiments that will mimic the kinds of conditions that any submarine may encounter in the future on Titan.

If NASA actually goes ahead with the mission successfully, then the first phases of the operation will start within the next 20 years. The revolutionary project can start a new chapter in the history of space exploration in the solar system.

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