Jules Verne Had the Right Idea
A 150 years ago, this year, Jules Verne gave us his vision of space travel with his book “From Earth to the Moon”, a few years later in “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” he told us what it would be like living under the sea in a submarine. When he wrote his books the concepts involved were unheard of.
Some scientists and executives at NASA must be fans of “the Father of Sci-Fi” as there have been two announcements that combine the elements of these two famous works of science fiction. At the State of NASA Address at the beginning of February, Charles Bolden NASA’s administrator stated that they do plan to send a mission to Europa. While not the moon that good old Jules was speaking of, Europa is a moon of Jupiter. Europa is iced over and it is believed that under the ice is a saltwater ocean similar as the one under Antarctica.
The topic was placed in planning stages in 2012 and in 2013, a small ROV was demonstrated as a prototype to be used. This ROV would be controlled by a tether from a lander which would interface with a ROV operator back on Earth. NASA has a budget of 100 million dollars for Europa related projects in its 2015 budget. In the proposed budget of 2016, NASA has a line item of 30 million dollars for the purpose of planning a mission to Europa. Scientists believe that the water may hold organic material.
An Out of this World Submarine
Not to take anything away from the project of exploring the seas of Europa, but their latest announcement make an ROV on Europa look like a high school science fair project. NASA has outlined plans to explore Titan, one of the moons of Saturn. Of all the planetary bodies, Titan is the most like Earth. It has an atmosphere, has weather patterns and even lakes and seas. Titan’s atmosphere is not suitable for humans or any life as we know it as it contains no oxygen just nitrogen and methane at the equivalent of 1.5atms. Oh, and it is a little colder as well, -290 °F (-179 °C). One of the seas has been named Kraken Mare and is about 400,000 sqm meters in size with a depth of 300 meters. The content of the sea is liquid hydrocarbons. NASA has released a concept planfor a submarine to explore this sea. The concept sub will have a weight of about a ton and will be dropped into the sea from a space craft. It will then start mapping the floor of the sea while also taking samples of the liquid and sea floor. Periodically it will surface and transmit its data. To keep the vessel from freezing and to propel it at speeds up to 3.6 km/h it will have a 1kW radiothermal Stirling generator. The plan is to spend at least 90 days exploring the sea. The target date is 2040.