Colonization of space has been a long-standing dream of humanity, but our technology hasn’t quite caught up with our imagination. Greater advancements in science and tech has put an off-planet colony almost within our grasp. But where to go?
Not the Moon and Mars, says Scientific American. A better destination for civilization would be Titan, a moon of Saturn.
As spaceflight fanciers know, one of the big hitches with colonization of the Moon and Mars is radiation. Our atmosphere protects us from the worst of the sun’s effects, which according to Space.com, “tear[s] through DNA… The damaged DNA can lead to cancer or other diseases.” And SA speaks of “brain damage” as a result of exposure to galactic cosmic rays.
The moon has a wafer-thin atmosphere — any lunar colony would have to be built underground for us puny humans to survive unscathed. Mars' atmosphere isn't very robust, either. Humans would have to settle about 4 meters underground on the moon and 2.7 meters underground on Mars to keep our sieverts down to a safe level, according to author Shaun Moss.
However, the Mercury-sized Titan has an atmosphere fifty percent thicker than ours, a safety blanket against (egads) torn DNA.
It’s cold on Titan, at -180°C (-291°F), but thanks to its thick atmosphere, residents wouldn’t need pressure suits—just warm clothing and respirators. Housing could be made of plastic produced from the unlimited resources harvested on the surface, and could consist of domes inflated by warm oxygen and nitrogen. The ease of construction would allow huge indoor spaces.
We haven’t colonized the Moon, our closest galactic neighbor, yet, so a permanent settlement on a moon of Saturn may be getting ahead of ourselves. But it’s nice to know we'll keep our DNA intact when we eventually get there.