Into the Kraken: NASA’s submarine plans for seas on Saturn’s moon Titan


What could be more exotic and exciting than a liquid methane sea on a faraway moon?

NASA has the answer: The space agency has prepared a video showing a plan for a submarine designed to study the depths of a sea on Titan, one of Saturn’s moons.

Titan is the only known body in our solar system with liquid seas and lakes, aside from Earth. And NASA wants to know what Kraken Mare, the largest sea on Titan, is like.

“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 said. “Sprawling over some 1,000 kilometers, with depths estimated at 300 meters, Kraken Mare is comparable in size to the Great Lakes and represents an opportunity for an unprecedented planetary exploration mission.”

The space agency first began talking about the submarine project last year. Scientists at NASA’s Glenn Research Center, the Applied Physics Lab, and the Applied Research Lab prepared the video presentation for this month’s NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts program.

“The mission concept we propose to study,” NASA said, “will investigate a full spectrum of oceanographic phenomena: chemical composition of the liquid, surface and subsurface currents, mixing and layering in the ‘water’ column, tides, wind and waves, bathymetry, and bottom features and composition.”

NASA is said to be contemplating a mission to send the submarine to Titan by 2040.

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