NASA Is Working on a Space Submarine. Really.
Image from NASA
NASA still doesn't have a way to get astronauts to outerspace but our national space agency will have a submarine to explore the extraterrestrial waters of Titan someday. Possibly.
This may sound patently ridiculous just now in the days when NASA is a chronically underfunded shell of its former self, but it's a pretty nifty idea.
The Titan submarine, if and when it is created, will plumb the depths of the Titian seas, specifically the Kraken Mare. (Yep, that's kraken as in "release the kraken!") The submarine will plumb the depths of the 720-mile long Kraken Mare and find out all kinds of interesting scientific-type stuff that we so far don't know about, not having been to Titan and all. The proposed mission will be focused on figuring out the hydrocarbon makeup of the Kraken Mare.
Titan is thought to be a sort of early version of Earth, what our particular planet might have looked like a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. (Had to.) Hydrocarbons that would be gassy on Earth are liquids on Titan where the temperature is about 290 degrees Fahrenheit below zero. This whole submarine shindig, if it ever happens, could help scientists understand more about the history and evolution of organic compounds in the solar system, according to a NASA release. It's the sort of information that could help us better understand the history and evolution of life on Earth and in the rest of the galaxy (assuming we ever find proof positive that it's out there).
As fascinating as this project sounds, don't start planning your Titan submarine watch parties just yet. The project is one of about a dozen rather out-there projects that NASA recently approved for some initial funding. Each of these projects will get about $100,000 funding in the first phase of development, according to NBC. That may seem like a mint of money, but in the world of science it's basically just this side of chump change. If the submarine project does well the folks running it will get about $500,000 for phase two of development lasting about two years.
This is all a fancy way of saying the whole thing is a long shot that may never ever happen. But there's still a teensy tiny possibility that someday, somehow, someone will get to play out their own version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea in a submarine on Titan, assuming the one they're working on could ever be manned. (Of course, we're crossing our fingers it will be. Who doesn't want to see a version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea happening on Titan?)