Our Path to a New Home in the Planets
- Charles Wohlforth and Amanda R. Hendrix, PhD
- 2016 Beaverton Library 629.455 WOH
- Charles Wohlforth is an Alaskan reporter and travel book author
- Dr. Hendrix analyzes UV instrument data on Galileo and Cassini
A permanent colony on Titan as a refuge from the destruction of the Earth. Silly, poorly thought out, too much magic thinking
- Use nuclear reactors to split water to make oxygen to burn methane
- Massive colonization fleet paid for by "the rich" so they can escape
- Magic "Q Drive" "gathers up quantum particles and expels them"
Harold White "Sonny" works for Mark McDonald's Advanced Mission Development Group at Johnson Space Center
- no notes or references
Titan: 1.2M km semimajor axis, 16 day period, orbital speed 5.6 km/s, tide locked to Saturn
- 2.64 km/s escape, 94K, density 1.88 g/cm³, 1.35 m/s² gravity
- Atmosphere: Stratosphere 98% nitrogen, 1.4% methane, Trpposphere 95% nitrogen, 5% methane
- Huygens lander 2005
- Surface 1000 times dimmer than earth
- Wikipedia: Atmosphere holds 10 meters of methane liquid equivalent, "Titan's weather is expected to feature torrential downpours causing flash floods, interspersed by decades or centuries of drought"
Saturn: 9.5 AU, 29.5 yr orbit, 6 year one way trip.
P75 "Titan's lakes and seas could contain animals made of carbon and methane."
Extremely unlikely, IMHO. Nick Lane's "The Vital Question" discusses the behavior of water near room temperature - it naturally dissociates into negative hydroxyl ions and positive protons, which in turn participate in complex biochemistry. Life is energy processing via proton gradients, according to Lane. Methyl CH₃- might be the equivalent of OH- in liquid methane, but AFAIK is way too dilute at 90K. It is not enough to have molecules - Earth life processes energy using proton ions, and constructs molecules that facilitate this.
The dissociation energy of a water molecule ( H₂O → HO + H ) is 2.78 eV, while the dissociation energy of a methane molecule ( CH₄ → CH₃ + H ) is 4.55 eV. The actual reactions are 2 H₂O → HO- + H₃O+ (hydronium) and 2 CH₄ → CH₃- (methyl?) + CH₅+ (methanium), and I don't know the energies of those, but the reaction rates for water are 10-13.99 at 298K and 10-14.95 at 273K, so it will be extremely tiny at 90K . 300 K is a kT thermal energy of 25.85 meV, 90 K is kT = 7.76 meV. I'll leave it to a real chemist to figure out what the dissociation fraction of methane is at 90K, but my guess it will be immeasurably small.
P275 "The closest Earthlike planet is probably twice as far" as Proxima Centauri. Nope. As paleobiologists have pointed out, the "Earth" has only been human-compatible "earthlike" for less than 10% of its history, and probably will not remain "earthlike" after an additional 10%. Planet hunters are fond of calling exoplanets smaller than Neptune "earthlike" if their semimajor axis puts them in the "liquid water zone" for their star, even if the eccentricity is much larger than the Earth's current 1.7% (almost all exoplanets have much larger eccentricities, they would alternate between freezing and baking every year). Indeed, the Earth would be completely covered with ice without stratospheric CO₂ to warm the surface, or a steam oven if there was as much as Venus. So, "earthlike" is federal-funding-speak for "greater-than-zero compatibility with earth-life assuming dozens of other conditions are also met".
P276 "Silica based person" - silica is sand. silicon is the element chips are made from. "Bored silly" on a thousand year trip; but without a power source, why stay turned on? Only biology needs to continue processing energy to avoid decay; with proper design for differential thermal expansion, computer hardware at deep space 2.7 Kelvin temperatures will last for a very long time.
P276 Alcubierre drive - this requires universe-scale mass-energy; perhaps an interesting construct to contemplate in the first zeptoseconds of the Big Bang, but not in our current vacuum-state universe.
I don't have time to pluck out more examples.