While setting foot on another planet will undoubtedly be the greatest scientific achievement in the history of humanity, it is much more likely, and perhaps preferable, that the many moons (including our own) orbiting the planets of our solar system will be the first explored and perhaps even colonized. Indeed, these bases would be important launch points for travel much deeper into space. Essentially, conquering some of these cosmic satellites may prove to be critically important.
Of course, as we will look at shortly, it is on some of these moons, that we may find the conditions for life. Or maybe life, in one form or another, might already be present.
When pictures came hurtling back through the reaches of space of Charon, the largest moon to orbit the dwarf planet Pluto, courtesy of NASA’s New Horizons probe, there would be fierce debate as to whether there was “geological activity” on the cosmic body. The detection of an atmosphere, albeit extremely thin, would also suggest such activity.
Check out the video below. It looks at some of the recent images of Charon asking whether we are “in the know” fully as to what they show.
Jupiter’s Intriguing Icy Worlds
Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system and the largest of the four gas giants. It also has some of the most intriguing moons in its orbit.
Its largest moon, Ganymede, for example, is one that modern technology has shown the possibility of water beneath its surface. What is particularly appealing to scientists about Ganymede is that its surface appears to be thinner than most other moons of a similar composition. Because of this, scientists suggest that should a craft be able to land, it should require little effort to penetrate the surface. There is also a thin atmosphere on Ganymede, which would enable terraforming to take place.
Callisto is another of Jupiter’s moons thought to have a vast ocean beneath its surface, and like Ganymede, there is a suggestion of a thin atmosphere. In terms of establishing a human base, the lack of geological activity there makes it a desired destination. Much like our moon, bases could cope with the conditions on the surface as opposed to having to quarry deep underground.
Perhaps the moon of Jupiter that keeps drawing many scientists back, however, is Europa. Many of those who study this moon believe there are genuine indicators of life existing in the ocean that itself exists below its icy surface. And there is nothing to suggest that this life will merely be microbial. Once further studies are complete concerning oxygen and hydrogen cycles of the ocean, it might be that substantially more advanced aquatic life is already present.
Check out the video below. A brief look at some of Jupiter’s moons.
Saturn – Already a System Of Interest (and Conspiracy!)
We have written about Saturn before, and how there are a plethora of conspiracy theories and bizarre connections to the ringed planet. Perhaps it is no surprise then it also hosts some of the moons with a desired landing destination for scientists here on Earth.
Mimas – sometimes referred to as the “Death Star Moon” due to its similar appearance to the fictional space station – is one such place, although scientists admit its terrain is not ideal. There is the apparent presence of water under the ice, however, as well as signs of geological activity.
Enceladus also has many scientists pondering if life may already exist there. Like other moons in this region, Enceladus enjoys a thick icy crust. However, “geyser-like” plumes of ice and water have been witnessed hurtling into space from the moon. When the Cassini spacecraft analyzed these particles, it is apparent they contain, liquid water, organic carbon, and nitrogen – the basic “building blocks of life!” The icy world would also be a good place to further study Saturn, and due to its huge cracks near the surface of the south pole region, offer a place to set up a base protected from the elements, which can also use the heat causing the cracks, as a power source.
In terms of human colonization, many researchers and scientists favor Titan as a destination. This is mainly due to the atmosphere which, although not breathable, would not require special pressurized protective suits. Humans would be able to operate on Titan with specially insulated clothing to protect them from the beyond freezing conditions, and with simple breathing apparatus. Much like Enceladus, Titan is relatively close to its host and should a base ever reside here, Saturn would be a permanent fixture in Titan’s sky.
The Outer Giants
Both Uranus and Neptune, the two gas giants in the outer reaches of our solar system also host moons of particular interest to scientists.
Triton, for example, while offering a harsh environment, has plenty of anomalies that warrant further study. It rotates around its host in the opposite direction to the planet. This is something that no other moon in our solar system does. Part of Triton’s surface also reflects light to such an extent that it appears there is a “smooth, hard surface”. While this is most likely ice, it reflects as though it is metal. There are also questions as to how Triton began its life with Neptune in the first place, given it is too large to simply have fallen into its current orbit, and is substantially younger than its host.
Miranda on the other hand, the smallest of Uranus’ moons, would be an ideal destination for a permanent base. There are several extremely deep valleys and fault cliffs on Miranda. These would offer ideal protection from the elements, which has no atmosphere to slow them down in any way. Given that radioactive particles from Uranus bombard Miranda, exposure to these for extended periods would be quickly lethal.
Initial studies suggest liquid water exists on the moon, which again would suggest geological activity. It also suggests a heat source within the cosmic body, as it is much too far from the Sun to keep water in liquid form. Miranda further has extremely low gravity. This means despite the huge drops from the erratic cliff faults, it would literally take minutes to land. It would also mean any injuries from such falls would be minimal.
Much To Explore Closer To Home?
Of course, before we colonize the moons in outer space, a permanent base on our moon would have to exist. This is both for logistical reasons and as launch points for future missions. And if reports are true, these bases may be up and running a lot sooner than we think.
The Chinese Space Agency are making their attempts and desires known of establishing a base on the moon. And what’s more, they plan this within the next decade. Elon Musk is another with very real desires to achieve such a feat. NASA would not sit idly by while private companies “claimed” the moon for themselves. Perhaps the persistent rumors of NASA’s own plans for a base on the moon will prove to be of substance.
If bases did exist on the moons of the solar system, traveling among the stars becomes a little more realistic. These would serve as “outposts” and “stop-off points” from one destination to another. In terms of recreational travel, propulsion would have to develop to a point so as to shorten traveling time considerably. Maybe taking a cruise around Jupiter and Saturn while stopping off for short stays on their icy moons may be a reality sooner than we might think.
Check out the videos below. It looks at ten of the most intriguing moons of the solar system.