NASA wants to send a submarine to Saturn’s Titan moon

13 Feb 2015

Titan – one of Saturn’s moons – is unique in that it’s the only known body other than Earth that has liquid lakes and seas on the surface, and US space agency NASA wants to send a sub to investigate.

The largest of the bodies of water, called Kraken Mare, is said to be the size of Lake Superior on the US-Canada border.

And it is here that NASA hopes its concept of a space sub can get to work and teach us ever more about our universe.

The lakes and seas on Titan are not like Earth’s bodies of water.

The liquid on Titan is – no, not Titanium, silly – liquid methane, and it acts in the same way as water does on Earth.

Thus it’s of significant interest to NASA as it looks to garner greater knowledge of the planets nearest to Earth.

Kraken Mare

An artist’s concept of a Kraken Mare exploration by a NASA submarine. Image via NASA

“We propose to develop a conceptual design of a submersible autonomous vehicle (submarine) to explore extraterrestrial seas. Specifically, to send a submarine to Titan’s largest northern sea, Kraken Mare,” said NASA.

“This craft will autonomously carry out detailed scientific investigations under the surface of Kraken Mare, providing unprecedented knowledge of an extraterrestrial sea and expanding NASA’s existing capabilities in planetary exploration to include in-situ nautical operations.”

NASA wants to work out everything it can about the lakes on Titan from an oceanographic perspective, mixing and layering in the “water” column, tides, wind and waves, bathymetry, and bottom features and composition.

It hopes this mission is a follow-on to a rover-based exploration of the moon, with plans for Titan discoveries within the next two decades or so.

This NASA video of the proposed sub should give you a taste of what it plans:

Saturn viewed from Titan image via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic