Forget Mars—let’s go colonize Titan!Enlarge / Home, sweet colony.
Saturn’s moon Titan. (credit: University of Arizona / LPL )
For a while now, there’s been a debate in the US over how to direct NASA’s next major human spaceflight initiative.

Do we build an outpost on the Moon as a step towards Mars, or do we just head straight for the red planet? Which ever destination we choose, it’ll be viewed as the first step toward a permanent human presence outside of the immediate neighborhood of the Earth.
All of that indecision, according to a new book called Beyond Earth, is misguided.

Either of these destinations presents so many challenges and compromises that attracting and supporting anything more than short-term visitors will be difficult.
Instead, Beyond Earth argues, we should set our sights much farther out in the Solar System if we want to create a permanent human presence elsewhere.

The authors’ destination of choice? Titan, the largest moon of Saturn.
The case for Titan
Colonizing Titan seems like an outrageous argument, given that the only spacecraft we’ve put in orbit around Saturn took seven years to get there. Why should anyone take Beyond Earth seriously? Well, its authors aren’t crackpots or mindless space fans.

Amanda Hendrix is a planetary scientist who’s worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Planetary Science Institute.

For the book, she’s partnered with Charles Wohlforth, an environmental journalist who understands some things about establishing a livable environment.

And the two of them have conducted extensive interviews, talking to people at NASA and elsewhere about everything from the health complications of space to future propulsion systems.
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