This question is along the same vein as Venus vs Mars for colonization but without the person at the table.

Is Mars better than Titan which to me seems a more realistic option for colonization?

With things like radiation, temperature, and many other factors unknown to me I would like the pros and cons of these two places.

  • $\begingroup$ Last one for a while. $\endgroup$
    – Muze
    Mar 1 '19 at 2:33

Some advantages of Titan are:

  • abundant nitrogen,
  • a thick atmosphere that will protect against radiation (the extra distance from the Sun also helps)
  • Lower gravity (and atmosphere) makes access to and from nearby space easier
  • Thicker atmosphere and lower gravity makes aircraft and helicopters an easy and effective way to move people and cargo around Titan
  • More things in relatively nearby space to explore/mine
  • Easy to cool machinery etc to the atmosphere
  • Possible subsurface ocean -- not quite sure what this is good for, but its interesting

Some advantages of Mars are:

  • Abundant iron and other heavy elements
  • Usable solar power
  • Gravity closer to Earth's (may be relevant for health, we don't know yet)
  • Much warmer -- and less heat loss to the thinner atmosphere
  • Three to six months from Earth using about 4-5 km/s of delta-V (from LEO) versus 3-5 years to Saturn system and about twice the delta-V
  • Radio takes a few minutes instead of an hour or so.

Both have abundant water ice it seems, and carbon (CO2 on Mars, methane on Titan). Mars seems like a more plausible short-term prospect due mainly to its nearness, but Titan may ultimately be the more valuable long-term option due to its nitrogen and its radiation protection.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Need to add that a leak of oxygen (e.g. from spacesuits, reservoirs, engines, ...) might lead to explosive mixtures on Titan. $\endgroup$ Mar 1 '19 at 10:17
  • $\begingroup$ @EverydayAstronaut and vice-versa $\endgroup$
    – Eth
    Mar 1 '19 at 12:09
  • $\begingroup$ @EveryDayAstronaut Titan's atmosphere is mostly nitrogen, with just a little methane. It's also very cold. I doubt even pure oxygen would burn. The methane is present mostly as a liquid on the surface. $\endgroup$ Mar 1 '19 at 12:24
  • $\begingroup$ It's also raining methane. So definitely something one should consider. $\endgroup$ Mar 2 '19 at 20:05
  • $\begingroup$ One more suggestion for pro-Titan: methane (and even hydrogen) can be used to re-fuel rockets. “only“ need to figure out how to get the oxidizer $\endgroup$ Mar 2 '19 at 20:15

The biggest obstacle of living on Titan is bound to be it's insane cold. People say space is cold, but space is a vacuum. A thermos bottle uses a vacuum as insulation. So wearing a space suit in a vacuum, in the shadows, it's not that hard to retain heat. There is no convection and conduction only happens on contact. However in an atmosphere that is only about 100 degrees above absolute zero you would have constant conduction and convection sucking away heat. -290F or -179C are really cryogenic temperature. I wonder if any fabric or rubber could be flexible at that temperature to even make a suit out of.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Actually you don't need a spacesuit at all on Titan. You just need clothes that cover your entire body and an oxygen mask. $\endgroup$
    – user35272
    Apr 9 '20 at 6:48
  • $\begingroup$ why dont we need spacesuit in Titan? $\endgroup$ Feb 22 at 11:55

Unfortunately, Titan can't be colonized at all despite being the most Earth-like body (other than the Earth itself) in our system. Quite everything on Titan is Earth-like except one factor: gravity. Titan's surface gravity is less than 1/7 that of the Earth so the body of a colonist would radically change and effects on you would probably be similar to these of microgravity. Other Saturnian moons have even much lower gravity. So the only ways to colonize the Saturnian system would either be a rotating spacecraft creating Earth-like gravity in orbit around Saturn or one of its moons (from which one could visit Titan and other moons) or a floating airship on the equator of Saturn where the gravity is 0.93 g (from which one could also visit Saturn's moons if you manage to go around the rings as most of the moons orbit above the equator). If Titan had the same density as the Earth, Titan's surface gravity would be around 0.405 g which would be more than that of Mars but since Titan consists of a subsurface water ocean and ices, it has a low density. Therefore (and because of the distances of course) it is so much easier to colonize Mars having 0.38 g.

  • $\begingroup$ We don't actually know what the effects of Titan-level gravity (or Mars-level gravity, for that matter) on the human body are, so it's too early to conclude that this would prevent us from colonizing Titan. $\endgroup$
    – Pitto
    Oct 21 '20 at 22:37
  • $\begingroup$ @Pitto but we do know the effects of 0 gravity on humans due to ISS so i believe we can predict the effects pretty accurately. $\endgroup$ Feb 22 at 11:57
  • $\begingroup$ @GENIVI-LEARNER Not necessarily, living things usually don't respond to stimuli in simple linear ways. Just knowing the effects of 0 and 1 g doesn't mean we can accurately predict what 1/7 g will do to humans. $\endgroup$
    – Pitto
    Feb 22 at 22:17
  • $\begingroup$ And after looking at the original reply again, it's wrong in another way: Titan is unlike Earth in many ways other than gravity. It's much colder and has a very different atmosphere, to give two examples. $\endgroup$
    – Pitto
    Feb 22 at 22:18

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