NASA is Developing A Space Submarine to Investigate Saturn's Wildest Moon

Many decades later, NASA is putting The Beatles to shame with their take on a super trippy submarine.

Researchers from Washington State University are working with the space agency to develop a vehicle that could explore Titan’s mysterious methane and ethane oceans, which can drop as low as -300 degrees Fahrenheit (about -184 degrees Celsius). It’s a seriously ambitious effort, but the team is hoping to send the submarine to Titan at some time in the next 20 years. All things considered, that’s not that far away.

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“Titan is the only known celestial body in our solar system other than Earth with stable liquid seas on its surface,” the team writes in a paper about their research, which has been published in the journal Fluid Phase Equilibria. “The thermodynamic properties of Titan’s seas have not been well characterized. This work investigates the solubility of nitrogen in varying liquid methane-ethane compositions and the effects of dissolved nitrogen on the density of the sea.”

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Titan, Saturn's large adult son

Researchers at WSU’s cryogenic lab created a test chamber with super cold liquid to simulate the extreme conditions in Titan’s seas. The team then had to come up with an inventive solution for filming what was going on in their creation, since the combination of extremely low temperature and high pressure made recording nearly impossible.

Thankfully, by using a borescope — an optical tool used to investigate hard-to-reach places in home repairs — the team was able to record the simulated “rain” inside the test chamber.

While there’s clearly a lot more work to be done in order to develop something that could survive the harsh conditions on Titan, this is a significant first step. There’s so much to learn about the unusual moon, which is kind of like Earth on a bad acid trip. Like our planet, it has a water cycle, except the water is actually just methane, and that’s just one example of the frightening similarities.

We wish the intrepid researchers and their (eventual) space submarine all the best. Please launch soon.

Media via NASA

Most of the coffee we drink on a daily basis is grown in massive coffee farms that are carefully overseen by humans tasked with protecting the crucial caffeine source. But there are about 124 varieties of wild coffee that face constant threats, say the authors of two new papers in Science Advances and Global Change Biology. Those wild varieties are crucial for protecting our domestic coffee stocks, which are currently under threat.

Ah, young love. The first time you fall for someone, it can be dangerously easy to overlook the warning signs. For the first few months, your boyfriend might seem like the funniest, most creative, most insightful, and handsomest guy you’ve ever met. It won’t matter that he roots for the Mets or says vague stuff like that he’s “not from around here.” After some time together, though, you’ll start to spot your boyfriend’s little quirks. Maybe he picks his nose while watching TV, or maybe his skin heals faster than it should. The truth is, a lot of teenage boys are dirtbags in disguise. Some of them, however, are hiding something much stranger. Some are aliens.

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SpaceX may test its Starship sooner than expected. CEO Elon Musk revealed via Twitter last week that the “hopper,” the test version of the company’s giant new rocket, may fly in just four weeks’ time, with the prospect of a delay to eight weeks’ time with unexpected delays.

The deadline sets SpaceX up for an impressive year, as the “hop tests” are an integral part of the company’s future plans, but until now the firm has only provided a vague deadline of 2019 for tests. The tests will involve sending the test rocket on jumps of a few hundred kilometers at the firm’s Boca Chica facility in Texas. A successful flight will pave the way for a manned mission to Mars, with Musk suggesting that the first humans could set foot on the red planet using the Starship as early as 2024. The rocket uses liquid oxygen and methane fuel, which means that astronauts can set up fueling stations to return home, or even travel to further planets with established recharge points on the way.

2018 was a record-breaking year for Elon Musk’s aerospace company. SpaceX has further cemented itself as the United States’ most prolific rocket firm by pulling off more launches than ever before and debuting the world’s most powerful operational launch system.

SpaceX ended 2018 by successfully launching a total of 21 rockets, one being the Falcon Heavy in February, which blasted one of Musk’s electric sports cars into space. The company also made massive strides toward rocket reusability with Falcon 9’s Block 5 upgrade and by sticking 12 of its 14 attempted first-stage booster landings.