Visiting Titan

Richard Branson’s newest adventure is commercializing space travel.  Right on the heels of that breakthrough, we now have:

Scientists piecing together data from Europe’s Huygens probe to Saturn’s moon Titan described the hazy satellite today as an environment in which a frequent rain of liquid methane falls through a thick smog onto hills made of water ice.

Now, that sounds a LOT more exciting than Mars.  I mean, a trip to the Mojave Desert would be a lot more exciting.

Those really are rivers running into an “ocean”.  Sounding really cool so far.  But, there are obvious downsides:

  1. Little sunlight penetrates the dense hydrocarbon atmosphere. ( I really really like lots of sunshine ).
  2. Surface temperatures on Titan were measured at -290 degrees Fahrenheit. ( I really, really like lots of sunshine for that reason. )
  3. It had rained liquid methane recently before Huygens arrival. ( You can run a car on liquid methane. )

“We can now dream seriously of sending rovers to Titan,” said  Huygens project manager Jean-Pierre Lebreton of the European Space Agency (ESA). “All we need is the money.”

Did I mention Richard Branson?  Actually, I’ve got another idea.  Let’s put some loose ends together and this is what you get:

  1. The world is facing a renewable energy crisis before too long.

  2. NASA needs money to send rovers to Titan. ( See above )

  3. SpaceshipOne is wanting commercial business.

Put it all together, and you get this natural conclusion:

Sell the rights to methane on Titan to Branson/SpaceShipTwo, let them build freighters to bring it back and they can become filthy bazillionaires while the world weens itself of dependence on Earth’s limited resources.  I mean think about it in a realistic way, it’s raining gasoline on Titan.

Hey Volokh guys, do I have to patent that as a concept?



Editor’s Update, 5/16/2017:  More than a decade after writing this, nothing has landed on Titan.  For that matter, nothing substantial has landed anywhere in the solar system while we’ve talked ourselves to death about getting man to Mars even though at this point, we can’t even put a man in orbit.  We’re back to 1960 again realistically.