Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Neptune's Triton: Is It Worth Billions, Or Trillions? Authentic NASA Toys and Replicas

Of the many worlds that dance around Sun or their paternal planet, Neptune's Triton is probably not a world that tickles one's imagination when envisioning space colonization.

The planetary system is barely shown in films, and even less is probably written about the moon in science fiction stories.

But while moon may be ignored as scientists chase after Mars and Titan, Neptune's Triton may in the distant future become a prime location at the edge of our solar system.

Although often known for its retrograde orbit (an unusual trait for a world this size), Triton boasts a tiny atmosphere and is located approximately 350,000 km from its blue parent.

While the small world does have some water upon its surface, it lacks any known resources that would make it an attractive target (although its nitrogen geysers would probably spark some tourism).

Despite the fact that the moon lacks a "monetary interest," it may attract settlers seeking to harvest helium-3 from Neptune's atmosphere.

Even though orbital stations will probably be constructed above Neptune's atmosphere in order to harvest its helium (similar to the ones seen in Star Wars), colonists may prefer to have their families raised upon Triton's surface, lest they see their loved ones accidentally descend into "the blue abyss" of Neptune's clouds.

While Neptune's helium-3 may make the system attractive, the Lagrange asteroids sharing the planet's orbit could "seal the deal" for establishing cities on that cold, frozen world.

Despite the dangers of mining asteroids, Neptunian colonists could use resources mined from these numerous floating space rocks to not only build up their tiny frozen world, but their economy as well.

Despite the fact that future colonists will probably have to live within aquarium homes (due to radiation) and wear gravity suits, settlers living upon Triton will probably find life to be fairly comfortable (at least financially), despite the fact that they are over 4.5 billion km from humanities Earthen homeworld.

(Image Credits: NASA)

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  1. Hi Darnell

    Triton's surface shows very few craters and what it does have seem to be from bits knocked off its neighbouring moons. The "cantaloupe terrain" seems to indicate extensive cryovolcanic activity and the apparently youthful surface seems to imply that Triton has a lot of internal warming happening for some, as yet, unknown reason. Perhaps that indicates a relatively shallow sub-surface ocean? Piping up high-pressure water from down below might be a good way to warm the colony.
    I've always liked Triton, alongside Titan, but the signs for shallow internal oceans on Titan are obscure to non-existent. Triton, paradoxically, might be one of the warmest outer planet moons - if we but scratch its icy crust.

  2. BTW I reported on some relevant Triton research on my blog...

    ...check it out!

  3. Hey Qraal!

    That's an interesting perspective regarding Triton. I wonder if the "ocean" underneath its icy surface would be composed of a similar organic mix found on Enceladus?

    If future explorers could pipe up water/organic material from below (nice and "hot") then it would make it much easier to live off of that world.

    If only the New Horizons probe could make a quick pit stop around Neptune, then we might have some interesting data regarding that frozen moon. :-D


  4. Hi Darnell

    Pluto *should* be a lot like Triton and *could* be quite different - sure enough, check my blog for an update. A new study on its atmosphere hints it could be a lot denser than Triton's, especially if Pluto has a hazy troposphere distorting the occultation data. What would be mind-blowing would be a very deep greenhouse effect atmosphere and a *warm* surface, but that's just my fantasy.

    As for mining gas giants, have you seen any recent papers on the idea? I have the old JBIS "Daedalus" report which details the balloons they proposed to mine Jupiter. Too hard. Jupiter's gravity well is too step for nuclear ramjets with reasonable reactor designs. Gas-core rockets at a bare minimum. Uranus is the easiest, and Plus Ultra Technologies did a design study for a robotic miner a few years ago - tho they're offline these days.

  5. Hi Again

    That NASA reference was...

    ...worth a read.

  6. Hey Qraal,

    Thanks for the link! :-)


You can either visit the stars or watch them from afar.

But if you choose the former, you'll definitely get a better view.

~Darnell Clayton, 2007

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