The purpose of this exercise is to explore some of the interesting features of terrestrial bodies in our solar system (notice I didn’t say planets, because one of the bodies is a moon).
Scenario: Due to some horrible event (probably of our own making), humans suddenly have an interest in living somewhere other than Earth. We need a large terrestrial body with an atmosphere, so the choices are Mars, Venus and Titan (one of Saturn’s moons). Using the information provided, complete the exercise and decide where you would establish a colony.
Part 1. Things to think about in the Atmosphere:
The web comic XKCD has an entertaining (and scientifically accurate) explanation the different the atmospheres are on some of the larger bodies in the solar system. Read the article in the following link and answer the questions below. https://what-if.xkcd.
- (1 pt) There are many planets where a gasoline engine would not work at all. What is it about Earth’s atmosphere that allows gasoline powered engines to work well on Earth, but not in the atmospheres of other planets like Mars?
- (2 pt) What is the biggest challenge to flight on Mars? How does this affect the ability to steer the airplane?
- (2 pts) What is the biggest challenge to keeping a plane flying in the upper part of the Venusian atmosphere? Why don’t we want to fly in the lower atmosphere?
- (1 pt) Titan has a decent atmosphere for flying, but one big drawback. What is it?
Part 2: Things to think about on the ground (2 points each):
- Mars is where most of our current off-planet exploration takes place: http://solarsystem.
nasa.gov/planets/mars (Links to an external site.). We know more about Mars than any other planet! In what ways is Mars similar to Earth? But in what ways is it different?
- Venus has been explored on a number of missions so far, mostly by orbiting satellites: http://
solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/. What are some of the key differences between being on the surface of the Earth and the surface of Venus? venus (Links to an external site.)
- NASA’s Cassini mission recently completed the first exploration mission of Titan: https://solarsystem.
nasa.gov/moons/saturn-moons/. What are some of the Earth-like features it has discovered so far? What are the ways Titan’s surface and atmosphere are different from Earth? titan/in-depth/ (Links to an external site.)
Part 3: Put it all together and tell us where to build a colony! (8 points)
This section should have 2 paragraphs. Paragraph 1 will bbriefly outline the pros and cons of trying to colonize Mars, Venus and Titan respectively. Use what you just read online and what we talked about in class. Paragraph 2 will state which place you think we should try to live on and why, and some ideas as to how we might overcome some of the challenges of living there. I’m not expecting NASA engineer answers; just use some common sense and a little creativity.