Titan’s icy ocean re-created in lab to test submarine: NASA
Scientists have recreated the ocean of Saturn’s moon Titan in the laboratory in an attempt to determine how an autonomous submarine would work on the icy cosmic body. Engineers know how to design submarines on Earth, but building one gets a lot trickier when the temperature drops to minus 180 degrees Celsius and the ocean is made of methane and ethane. Titan is of particular interest to researchers because it is similar to Earth in one important way, it holds liquid.
Unlike almost anywhere else in the solar system, the moon’s surface includes oceans, rivers and clouds, and like on earth, it can rain. However, instead of water, the hydrological cycle is based on methane.
NASA has been studying Saturn and its moons for more than a decade with data collected from the Cassini spacecraft. The submarine that the agency is designing will have to operate autonomously.
It will need to study atmospheric and ocean conditions, move around sea beds, and hover at or below the surface.
The engineering is even trickier because, unlike the nearly homogeneous water in earth-based oceans, the concentration of ethane and methane can vary dramatically in the Titan oceans and change the liquid’s density properties. Researchers at Washington State …read more