Year: 2018-19

Dara Georgescu

School: Liceul Teoretic Scoala Mea

City: Bucharest

"Saturn’s moons, Enceladus and Titan have similarities with Earth. Moreover, there is a chance that there could be habitable conditions. So which of these three moons has a great potential and could be an inspiration for scientists and astronomers to discover life and possibly other creatures?

On one hand, I would prefer to return to Titan mainly because of its potential for habitation and its interesting atmosphere. Furthermore, it is similar to Earths conditions. Titan has liquids in forms of lakes and seas mainly made up of methane and ethane. Besides that, Titan also has a very similar water cycle compared to Earth’s, and its surface lakes and seas of liquid hydrocarbons could harbor life, which uses different chemistry. Another important fact is that although on Earth, creatures and humans have water as a solvent, there is a possibility that Titan uses hydrocarbon as a solvent even though water is a stronger solvent. In contrast, water is more chemically reactive, so a life form whose solvent has hydrocarbon would not face the risk of its biomolecules being destroyed. Because of the lakes and seas made up of methane and ethane, Titan could potentially support non-water-based life.

On the other hand, Titan may show signs that it may not be suitable for human living conditions. First, the temperature is roughly -179 degrees Celsius and because of the methane and ethane found in the lakes and sees, can cause frostbite if not wearing protective gear. Apart from that, this incredible moon has an atmosphere so dense that it has roughly the same pressure as a human swimming 15 meters deep in the ocean on Earth and because of its atmosphere if humans attached wings to their arm they could take flight. Titan is a very special moon, which I would love to return to in order to find more discoveries.

Secondly, there is a great chance that future discoveries could be made. Moreover, I consider that once astronauts reach the possibility to step foot on this planet, they could actually find similar sources to the ones on Earth. Not to mention the fact that in February 2015 a hypothetical cell membrane capable of functioning in Titans lakes and seas was modelled. The proposed chemical based for these cell membranes is acrylonitrile, which has been previously detected on Titan. Although it does not contain phosphorus and oxygen found in phospholipids, it contains nitrogen. Its properties are quite similar, including flexibility, stability, self-formation of the sheets and others despite the different chemical structure and external environment.

In conclusion, Titan, out of all three moons inspires me the most due to its mysteries, human habitation potential, its similarities and differences compared to Earth. Titan is truly unique because of the similar substances such as hydrocarbon and nitrogen that could sustain non-water-based life and cell membranes."

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