Last Call For Titan! (2017) Movie Script

[ ]
Our species emerged over two
hundred thousand years ago.
On a small planet
of the solar system.
A unique planet,
covered with oceans
and inhabited
by thousands of species.
This is where we evolved
and bloomed.
Until our technical knowhow
and thirst for discovery
freed us from Earth's gravity.
Little by little, we became
a multi-planet species,
constantly pushing back
the limits of our knowledge.
Our horizon shifted
from the Blue Planet,
in search of a new haven.
We colonized Mars
and its red deserts.
Swung by the moons
of the gigantic planet Jupiter
and its menacing eye.
Then we arrived in our new
world, close to Saturn,
one point five billion kilometers from our home planet.
Here, in the shadows
of the giant
and its system of ice rings,
we found our new haven.
A secret haven,
protected by a thick
brownish-orange atmosphere.
A haven named Titan.
The largest of Saturn's moons.
The only moon in the solar
system with an atmosphere.
A moon that was an impenetrable mystery for centuries.
A moon that turned out
to be the best candidate
in our solar system for human
colonization and hosting life.
A moon it took us
many years to conquer
using all the ingenuity
of our kind.
[ ]
Our adventure begins
in the mid-1970s
in the secrecy of NASA's
Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
The Apollo missions to the
moon have come to an end,
and American engineers have
embarked on a new challenge:
to send two space probes,
Voyager 1 and 2,
to explore the outer solar
system and its giant planets.
But Titan and its mysterious
brownish-orange atmosphere
so intrigue the scientists
that they decide
to change Voyager 1's course.
[translated] Titan has always
been a source of fascination
for the scientific community
because, at the very beginning
of the 20th century,
observations were made
with the means
available at the time,
which showed a darkening
around the disk of Titan.
This was interpreted
as a sign of the presence
of an atmosphere.
An atmosphere around a satellite
was quite a special thing,
and it spurred scientists
to take a closer look.
[ ]
NARRATOR: On November 10 1980,
after a three-year journey,
Voyager 1 entered
Saturn's system.
Tens of thousands
of kilometers away,
Titan was close enough
to be photographed.
It was an historic moment.
Titan's atmosphere is so thick
that Voyager could not reveal
the secrets of its surface.
But the probe
had other resources
and managed to send back
unprecedented data
which sent the scientific world into a frenzy.
It was the discovery
of a pretty remarkable world.
Because, although the methane
clouds shrouding Titan
prevented us from seeing
its surface directly,
we were able to extract
a wealth of information
about its atmosphere.
NARRATOR: Of the most important information revealed by Voyager,
the presence of methane
was of particular interest
to scientists.
Since methane,
a gas composed of carbon,
is one of the organic
building blocks of life.
[translated] Voyager's
instruments weren't optimized
to study this organic chemistry.
So it was natural to assume
there were other
absolutely extraordinary things
in the atmosphere,
on Titan's surface, and it was
imperative to return.
A spacecraft had to be sent
with all sorts of instruments,
including a radar capable of
piercing through the clouds.
But what they really hoped
to do was send a probe,
a dedicated probe,
which would descend
through Titan's atmosphere.
NARRATOR: This crazy plan
to deliver a probe,
over a billion kilometers
from Earth,
to an unknown environment,
would be the Cassini-Huygens
an historic joint
endeavor of NASA,ESA -
the European Space Agency -
and ASI,
the Italian Space Agency.
An impressive
technological feat,
the mission consisted of an
orbiter spacecraft - Cassini -
which would carry a probe -
Huygens -
and release it
into Titan's atmosphere.
I would consider Cassini-Huygens
as a model of how
international agencies
and international scientists
actually worked together
for a common goal.
And that enabled us to do
significantly more
than if only
the United States...
By bringing the best talent
both in Europe and the US,
it enabled us to do
a mission which will go in
the book of history for many
decades, you know, to come
as one of the most exciting
missions that was accomplished.
NARRATOR: November 1989.
After ten years of research
and development,
NASA set about building
the Cassini orbiter.
During its seven-year journey through the interplanetary void,
the spacecraft had to be
capable of performing
trajectory correction
and maneuvers
remotely piloted from Earth.
Cassini is equipped
with radioisotope
thermoelectric generators
to power its instruments.
Cameras and spectrometers are placed on one side of the craft.
The Huygens probe
is bolted to the other.
There is a telescopic mast
for measuring magnetic fields.
A radar is placed on the antenna
that will transmit
collected data to Earth.
This antenna will also serve
as a shield to protect
the spacecraft during critical stages of the mission.
To steer itself, Cassini
has a series of thrusters
and two main engines,
each capable of providing
fifty kilos [100 pounds]
of thrust.
A record for a space
exploration craft.
The spacecraft had to be
exceptionally reliable.
It was built with, for example,
two sets of all
the major components.
So that if one would fail
there is a backup.
Building that and the autonomy
to switch between them
was a major development.
Of course the Titan environment
was completely,
almost completely unknown,
and that was a major challenge
for the design of
the Huygens probe.
NARRATOR: While the Cassini
spacecraft was being built
in the United States, the French manufacturer Arospatiale
was given the task of developing the Huygens probe.
This was the first atmospheric entry probe ever built in Europe
but also the first probe
in the world
to touch down on
an unknown surface.
For the 1980s, the Huygens probe was a technological marvel.
It's equipped with six
instruments enabling it
to see, hear, touch
and even "taste" Titan's
atmosphere and surface.
The most important instruments include HASI's deployable booms
for measuring
the electrical properties
and physical characteristics
of Titan's atmosphere;
an imager equipped
with several sensors
which would capture
unprecedented images
of Titan's surface: the DISR;
and a series of sensors
designed to determine
the physical characteristics
of Titan's surface
at the point of impact:
the SSP.
To be sure this 350-kilo
[770-pound] high-tech marvel
arrived safe and sound,
there would be a few more
challenges to overcome.
This was the first time ever
that Europe had developed
a device designed to enter
an extraterrestrial atmosphere,
descend through it
by parachute
and hopefully touch down
on the surface.
We weren't very hopeful
we'd be able to land it
because the engineers
had told us it was impossible
to land on Titan,
the surface was unknown,
it would crash or sink,
and all sorts of other
disaster scenarios.
LEBRETON: Many studies
and simulations were required
to validate the shield.
It had to act as
a powerful brake
while heating to several
thousand degrees
and allow the probe to enter
Titan's atmosphere.
The second major challenge,
I think,
was developing a system of three
parachutes that had to deploy
in sequence at different
altitudes in Titan's atmosphere.
The tests, which involved
launching a mock-up
of the Huygens probe with
a stratospheric balloon,
then releasing it in a
parachute on a site in Sweden,
enabled us to validate the whole
parachute deployment sequence.
NARRATOR: Spring 1997.
Seven years after work
on building them began,
the American Cassini orbiter and the European Huygens probe
were joined together
at Cape Canaveral in Florida.
On October 15 1997, everything
was ready for the launch.
At 4:43 AM, the Centaur IV
rocket lifted off
from Launch Complex 40
carrying the Cassini orbiter
and Huygens probe.
The most ambitious journey
of the space age had begun.
WOMAN: We have confirmation
of Centaur and SB separation.
[ applause ]
Getting to Saturn
is very challenging.
It requires a lot of energy
to get you that far
out in the solar system.
And the rocket that we had,
you know, at that time,
did not have enough energy
to push the satellite
to go directly to Saturn.
So what we had to do was we had
to go out and then come back
and fly by Venus and use
the gravity of Venus
to kind give us
what we call a slingshot.
NARRATOR: By entering the
planets' gravitational fields,
as if it were falling
towards them,
then escaping
their gravitational pull
at the last minute, Cassini
gradually increased its speed.
DR. ELACHI: So by doing these
multiple flybys
we were able to gain
enough energy
to get us actually to Saturn.
And that's why it took us seven
years, you know, to get there
because we had to do
these different flybys.
NARRATOR: In August 1999, after
looping twice around the sun,
Cassini approached Earth.
Thanks to a slingshot maneuver, this was an opportunity
to accelerate again and to say
farewell to the Blue Planet.
Having gained the required
energy, Cassini began
its long five-year journey
towards the outer solar system
and mysterious Titan.
A year later, in December 2000, Cassini approached Jupiter.
Even though
the spacecraft remained
over ten million kilometers
away from the giant,
to minimize damage from
its intense radiation fields,
its cameras beamed breathtakingly beautiful images
back to Earth.
[ ]
Late June 2004.
On Earth, the tension
was at its height.
After a seven-year journey,
Cassini was nearing Saturn.
This was one of the most perilous phases of the journey.
The spacecraft
had to place itself in orbit
around the giant planet.
And to do this, it had to dive through Saturn's icy rings!
The engineers really put the
pressure on by telling us
it was extremely dangerous, that
the probe would not survive,
at least one of the instruments
would break,
it was complicated and so on.
So we were sitting
there in a state of tension,
scientific, technological,
So we were pretty nervous, you
know, when we got very close.
Now the model did tell us
that is a very low likelihood
but all that you need
is one particle
and you destroy
15 years of work.
To pass through the rings,
Cassini had to use
its big dish antenna as a shield and could no longer transmit.
Back on Earth,
this silent passage
was a white-knuckle moment.
Hundreds of millions
of kilometers away,
no one knew if the spacecraft
would survive.
Despite its silence, Cassini continued to record data
such as particle impacts.
A poignant moment.
After this initial feat,
Cassini spent several hours
above the rings.
Several magical hours.
But now Cassini
had to turn around
and use its main engines
to brake.
Engines that had not been
used for several years!
At 7:36 PM, it fired
its bipropellant engines.
Once again Cassini demonstrated its technological perfection.
The maneuver was
a total success!
It was quite extraordinary
how the engineers
managed to pass the spacecraft
through the widest gap
between the rings
and out the other side.
We breathed
a huge sigh of relief.
We saw the first images
of the rings.
We saw the structure of
the particles in the rings,
we saw the planet's shadow
cast on the rings.
We had never had
so much spatial resolution
on images of the rings.
NARRATOR: Cassini was now orbiting Saturn.
A milestone in the
history of astronomy.
The mission now entered one
of its most decisive phases.
On October 26 2004,
Cassini was about to make
its first reconnaissance
of Titan.
It was the moment of truth for
the spacecraft's instruments.
To penetrate Titan's
hazy atmosphere,
Cassini has imaging equipment
that records the infrared rays
reflected by its surface.
Back on Earth, the scientists
waited with bated breath.
Would Cassini's imager really be
able to reveal Titan's surface?
[translated] When
the first images arrived
on October 26 2004,
I was still in the lab
at 4:00 in the morning.
I remember the exact time the
images were supposed to arrive.
And, one by one, these long
awaited images arrived
and, at last, we could begin
to discover Titan's surface.
It was better than we'd
NARRATOR: Dozens of images
were beamed back to Earth.
Only 64 pixels across,
they were low definition
by today's standards.
But they provided sufficient
information to give scientists
an idea of Titan's surface.
As well as its infrared cameras,
Cassini has a synthetic
aperture radar
for obtaining information
about Titan's terrain.
This radar bounces
radio waves off its surface.
Ground features
reflect the waves back
with altered wavelengths.
By analyzing these changes, the onboard computers can construct
high-resolution images
of Titan's surface.
When we saw the first image, it
didn't really make sense to us.
We didn't really know
what we were seeing.
We didn't see much familiar.
There was something that
maybe looked like a crater,
there were some things
that maybe looked like rivers.
We couldn't really be sure.
NARRATOR: Even though they
are open to interpretation,
these first radar images
of Titan's surface revealed
a variety of landscapes
whose existence
the scientists
had never suspected.
Following these initial
revelations, NASA's engineers
began to focus on the mission's next phase:
releasing the Huygens probe
into Titan's atmosphere.
A very risky phase as Cassini
first had to fire its engines
to change orbit and enter a collision trajectory with Titan.
The slightest error
would be fatal for the orbiter
as well as the probe.
On December 24 2004,
Cassini was preparing
to eject the Huygens probe.
Despite the festive atmosphere, the tension was palpable.
After being dormant
for seven years
in the interplanetary void,
no one could guarantee
the probe release mechanisms
would wake up.
At 6:00 PM,
Cassini's automatic program
activated the release process.
Huygens began its descent,
alone, towards Titan.
- Detached, released.
- All free.
All right, good job.
[ applause ]
[ indistinct conversation ]
Huygens' silent descent
would take almost three weeks.
to avoid crashing onto Titan,
Cassini had to alter the course it had been on
to release Huygens then
reposition itself to retrieve
the data the probe would send it on touching down.
On January 14,
Huygens was finally nearing
Titan's upper atmosphere
and the moment of truth.
Would the thermal shield
designed to protect
the probe's instruments
prove effective?
For the entry into
Titan's atmosphere,
and to brake its descent,
Huygens was protected
by a thermal shield.
The front part
decelerated the probe
and the back part,
the back cover,
protected the instruments
during this hot phase.
Because the temperature
of the shield itself
was over 1,500 degrees.
And the gas, heating
at the front of the probe,
was somewhere in the region
of 8,000 to 10,000 degrees.
[ ]
NARRATOR: As the engineers
wondered back on Earth,
Huygens continued its journey.
The thermal shield
kept all of its promises
and its parachutes opened
to brake its descent.
Years of tireless work
had paid off.
At an altitude of 150 kilometers [100 miles],
Huygens' instruments
started up,
and the probe sent
its first signal to Earth.
For Huygens, reaching the surface was a race
against the clock.
As its batteries were only
designed to last a few hours.
The mission took place
around midday,
from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM.
And we had to wait until,
5:00 or 6:00 in the afternoon,
local time in Darmstadt, to
get the first data via Cassini.
The mist gradually cleared.
Huygens kept on snapping
the landscape below it.
Revealing Titan's mystery
as it did so.
On January 15, we had planned
a press conference.
And the camera team had managed
to produce a panorama,
if you like, by putting 10
or 15 images together.
And on seeing this panorama
when it was presented,
I said, "That's unbelievable!
It's the Cte d'Azur."
[ ]
Honestly, the panorama
as it was presented
reminded me of
the Mediterranean,
of the rivers flowing into the
Mediterranean, and the hills.
So I saw the Cte d'Azur.
That was my initial reaction:
"But that isn't Titan, it's the
Cte d'Azur!" But it was Titan.
NARRATOR: On January 14 2004, Huygens was nearing the surface.
The craziest challenge in the
history of space exploration
was on the verge
of being pulled off.
A manmade craft had traveled
over one billion kilometers
to land on the surface of
an unknown celestial body.
All the instruments
were activated.
They recorded and relayed
to Cassini as much data
as they could
before the batteries died.
LEBRETON: Once Huygens
had touched down,
once it was stable,
all the instruments
continued to work
and the camera took images
of the surface of Titan.
As we had cameras
in three directions,
we had stereo images, and we
could clearly see around
the touchdown site what
appeared to be a river bed
with small round pebbles.
LEBRETON: We were actually
seeing familiar landscapes
but with totally
different ingredients.
It was... It is 180 degrees
on the surface.
So these pebbles aren't made
of stone, they're ice pebbles,
water-ice pebbles.
The sand... the matter
that resembles sand
is organic matter.
A mixture of grains of organic
matter and grains of water-ice.
So very different things from
what we see on Earth
but in appearance very similar
to what we know on Earth.
A few hours after touching
down on the surface of Titan,
Huygens' batteries died.
The probe went dark.
But the information
it had gathered
is an inexhaustible
treasure trove.
Thirteen years on, scientists
are still working on it.
Huygens provides a resolution
that enabled us to see details
that are inaccessible
to Cassini from its orbit.
However, Huygens is a single
date at a single spot on Titan.
And to understand a complex
system like Titan, you have
to be able to extrapolate
this data of Huygens.
It's extremely precious
data, the in-situ truth.
But you have to be able
to extrapolate this data,
thanks to models,
by making hypotheses
at every longitude
and every latitude of Titan.
And this is where Cassini
helps us from its orbit.
NARRATOR: During its
thirteen-year mission,
Cassini has tirelessly explored the Saturnian system
by flying by Titan every month.
In all, the orbiter has
made about 100 flybys.
On each of these flybys,
Cassini sends new information
enabling scientists
gradually to map Titan.
But the operation is a real
headache because it means
piecing together
dozens of images
taken at different latitudes and with varying degrees of light.
If, thanks to Cassini, scientists are trying to refine
their knowledge of Titan,
it's because they hope to find
the necessary ingredients there for the development of life.
What interests us too
are the conditions
for what we call habitability.
Habitability is actually the
measure of a world's ability
to bring forth life or to
sustain life once it exists.
By extrapolation of what we have
on Earth, the question is
"What do you need?"
You need water, liquid water.
You need nutrients.
You need energy sources
because it is energy
that makes our planet live, in
fact, and the metabolism evolve.
And you need
a stable environment.
For the environment
to be stable,
you need a pretty big world.
NARRATOR: To check that
habitability conditions exist,
and to confirm
their scientific models,
the researchers wait impatiently
for each new transmission
from Cassini.
In 2007, two years
after releasing Huygens,
Cassini made a major discovery.
The spacecraft
detected for the first time
a series of seas and rivers
in the north pole region.
This revelation enabled
scientists to confirm
the existence of an active
cycle on the surface of Titan.
Titan is one point five billion
kilometers from the sun.
It's very, very far
and extremely cold.
So we thought it would be a
completely frozen environment.
With a geology and climatology
that was totally inactive.
And we were amazed to see
that the climatology was active.
Not only active but complex.
And that even at these
very, very cold temperatures,
there was a climatic cycle based
on evaporation, condensation,
the formation of clouds,
of rain,
and that this rain
fed the expanses
of stable liquid
on the satellite's surface.
NARRATOR: Methane is found
in vast quantities on Titan,
particularly in its lakes
and rivers.
When the seasons change,
when the temperature rises,
methane evaporates then
condenses into clouds
some 30 kilometers
above the ground
before falling back to the
surface in the form of rain.
The whole
forms an active cycle
analogous to Earth's
water cycle.
In summer 2009, Cassini captured a remarkable series of images
which confirmed this,
and the existence of distinct
changing seasons on Titan.
RODRIGUEZ: The equinox
occurred in August 2009.
The equinox is quite simply
just as it is on Earth,
when the sun shines
emits a maximum amount
of energy at the equator.
We saw the tropics,
or Titan's equatorial regions,
which are usually
relatively calm.
We saw quite extraordinary
activity occur at that point.
Very violent storms
with torrential rain
over the equator.
It impacted the landscape in the
same way that torrential rain
does Earth's deserts,
where you have dried-up rivers
the rest of the year and then,
at a certain time of year,
there are very violent storms
that fill these great deserts,
which continue to erode
and carry sediment
toward the sand deserts, where
you can see dunes forming.
So Titan's dunes have a
structure that's pretty amazing.
They are all linear.
With a very stable linearity.
They can stretch
in a straight line
for hundreds of kilometers.
In fact we think
they're quite astonishing,
not made up of sand,
as they are on Earth,
but of the material
found on Titan's surface.
They're grains of
complex organic material.
[translated] The grains
we can see on these dunes,
and this material these
brownish-orange macromolecules
found pretty much everywhere
on Titan's surface.
There have been a number
of theories but
the generally accepted theory
now is an atmospheric origin.
There are processes
that occur far upstream,
very high up in the atmosphere.
In Titan's upper atmosphere,
ultraviolet radiation
breaks down methane
and nitrogen molecules
into much smaller molecules.
These then recombine to form
new more complex
and much heavier compounds.
As these compounds descend
in the atmosphere,
they combine to form
the organic grains
that make up the dunes,
and which scientists have
called tholins.
The Cassini-Huygens space
mission has provided us
with plenty of information
about these grains,
but it has not told us
anything so far
about their
chemical composition.
Everything we know about
their composition for now,
we've learned
through simulations
and laboratory experiments.
[ liquid flowing ]
These scientists have actually
managed to recreate
Titan's upper atmosphere
in a vacuum
in order to study
the formation of tholins.
As the UV rays providing
the energy required
for the experiment
do not exist on Earth,
they have replaced them
by electrons.
In the presence of these
electrons, the methane
and nitrogen injected into the
vacuum form an orange plasma.
Chain reactions occur
in this plasma
leading to the production
of tholins.
But, in this miniature
the quantities produced
are minute,
and it takes several days
before the nanoparticles
are visible
to the naked eye.
Produced in the laboratory, the strange extraterrestrial matter
undergoes extensive analyses.
Thanks to these
laboratory experiments,
scientists now have proof that
Titan's surface is covered
with an organic material from
which life can develop:
readily convertible
polymers that are essential
to the formation of amino acids, the building blocks of life.
Exposing organic material
to liquid water
in the laboratory at least,
very interesting
prebiotic chemicals:
the amino acids
that make up proteins,
the bases that encode
information in DNA...
All the building blocks seem to
be made in this environment.
So there is that side, the life
as we know it, if you like,
a water-based life.
the scientists have to do
is find the liquid water
on Titan.
But with a temperature
of minus 180 degrees Celsius,
only hydrocarbons
flow on its surface.
Finding the water would require going under its ice shell,
where the temperature
might be higher.
But to be sure, there will
have to be a new mission.
A mission all the more necessary as Cassini has only mapped
sixty percent
of Titan's surface.
Although it is now certain that Titan has an active geology,
organic materials
and huge hydrocarbon reserves,
giving it a unique character
in our solar system,
it is necessary to return
to be sure that the moon can really host life on its surface.
When we launched Cassini,
we planned it for five years,
to be in orbit around Saturn
for five years.
But we always keep margin
in our propulsion
and what we call altitude
control, I mean the mechanism
which we use to do
altitude control.
But we were fortunate, you know,
that it had been working
for 13 years.
But we are running
out of propellant.
So when we run out fuel
that means we cannot control
the spacecraft,
you know, anymore.
But we want to make sure that
that spacecraft does not hit
Enceladus or Titan, and possibly
bring microbes with it
because it was launched
from Earth
so it has some
contaminants in it.
So we want to make sure those
satellites stay completely clean
for future exploration
in case there is life,
you know, on them.
So on purpose we're going
to target Cassini
to actually hit Saturn
and burn it in the atmosphere
so it will destroy
everything on it.
So that's a common practice
we do on our spacecraft,
not that we like to destroy them
but when they are completely
done, to keep the planets
kind of clean from
any microbes from Earth.
On September 15 2017, after
thrilling the international
scientific community
for over thirteen years, the Cassini mission comes to an end.
And with it one of the most
remarkable episodes
in the conquest of space.
An end
in the form of a sacrifice
to give future
exploration missions
every chance of discovering
life on Titan.
The next steps towards Titan
exploration are going to need
to be to have a
dedicated Titan mission.
And there's lot of options,
We can have a Titan orbiter
that can help us
further map out the surface
and understand
where the dunes are,
how they're changing
with seasons,
how the lakes might be changing
and further understand
what the lakes are made out of
and what their viscosities
are like.
And then also an orbiter
will help us understand
Titan's interior and what
its interior structure is like,
and help us understand
that sub-surface ocean.
But then we also can send rovers
and different types of
landed assets to Titan.
NARRATOR: Many scenarios are being studied
for the next Titan
exploration mission.
The most ambitious involves
placing an orbiter
not around Saturn,
as was the case with Cassini,
but around Titan itself.
This riskier operation would
mean Titan could be observed
As well as this orbiter, robotic devices would be deployed
on Titan's surface:
airships adapted to the atmosphere's winds and density.
And boats capable of navigating
its lakes rich in hydrocarbons
and organic compounds.
Once Titan has been
precisely mapped,
scientists will be able to consider the next decisive state
of its conquest:
a manned mission.
But this new adventure
implies overcoming
huge technological obstacles.
One might be able to send kind
of an advanced set of robots,
who might be very smart
and be able to set up an initial
power station of some sort
accessing water
and creating some energy
and setting up
some initial habitats.
Many extra-terrestrial habitat
projects are being studied.
Among these is SHEE,
a module developed by several
European countries
and tested in
a desert area in Spain.
[translated] SHEE stands for
Self-deployable Habitat
for Extreme Environments.
The habitat is a very
compact structure
that is self-deployable.
It therefore doesn't require
any complicated assembly.
In fact the goal of SHEE is to
send something to the surface,
and this system can be deployed
automatically by robotic means
so it's ready when
the astronauts arrive.
But to send these robotic
modules in sufficient numbers,
space agencies must first
solve a very mundane problem:
drastically reduce the costs of launching rockets into space.
A significant obstacle
to the conquest of space.
An obstacle that Space X
is gradually overcoming
thanks to a new family of
reusable rockets: Falcon 9.
After transporting their
spacecraft into orbit,
they return to Earth
ready for new missions.
Back in May 2012,
with the COTS2 mission,
SpaceX also became
the first commercial company
to deliver cargo to the
International Space Station.
Since this achievement, SpaceX
has successfully carried out
eleven resupply missions for
NASA and retrieved the engine
first stage of thirteen
of its rockets -
eight at sea and five on land.
The thing that I think many
people have not grappled with
is that the radiation
environment beyond Earth orbit
is so severe that really
any kind of long journey
is impossible
with our current technology.
So in our thinking we think that
the biggest step that needs
to happen is much
faster spacecraft.
The propulsion speed of future
exploration spacecrafts
is undoubtedly one of
the major issues to resolve
in order to protect
the health of astronauts.
But here again, the latest
technological evolutions
are promising.
One of the concepts that we
looked at in our book,
and that we think is promising
but needs a lot more work
is called a quantum thruster or
a quantum drive or Q-Drive.
It's kind of like a propulsion
as used by the Dawn spacecraft,
which is in orbit at Ceres,
that uses particles
and shoots them through an
array, an electric array.
NARRATOR: Ion propulsion engines
use xenon atoms
bombarded with positive ions.
The atoms lose their electrons, and these escape at high speed
generating a reaction
force that moves the probe.
The thrust is much lower than with a traditional engine.
But it is constant.
This makes it possible in deep
space to produce acceleration
that accumulates and
to reach considerable speeds
while consuming
very little fuel.
A Q-drive would be similar
to that except that
it wouldn't have to carry
the fuel along with it,
which is an advantage for
launching and, you know,
for mass overall to carry.
It would just utilize
quantum particles
that pop up from space
as it goes along.
Seems like a really bizarre
concept, but evidently it works.
In tests it has worked.
Requiring no fuel, the Q-drive
could accelerate continuously
in order to reach
dizzying speeds,
shortening the journey
to Titan to just six months.
Space agencies are already
thinking about the next steps,
and, in particular, a concept
currently being developed:
a station
that will orbit the moon,
an international moon station,
if you like,
where astronauts will be based.
They will stay there a while
and then make excursions
to the surface.
There would be a similar type
of scenario with Mars initially.
You go into orbit because
you're closer to the surface.
You can explore through
observation first
and then make small, short
manned missions to the surface.
For me, this is kind of
the roadmap we'll follow.
The moon, Mars, maybe an
asteroid in between, and then,
once that's accomplished,
once there's a lasting colony
on Mars, we could think of
going much further with Titan.
NARRATOR: If we want to establish lasting colonies in space,
technology is far from being
our only obstacle.
Our biggest problem
is humans themselves.
psychological isolation
and ensuring food sufficiency
are challenges as difficult
to overcome as propulsion.
Challenges NASA
has tackled on Earth
with its HI-SEAS
simulation missions.
[translated] For a whole year
the six of us crew members
lived in an 11-meter diameter
dome on a volcano.
We were never
in the open air
because when we left
the habitat,
to perform geological tasks
around the dome,
we wore simulated space suits.
We had no real-time
with the outside world.
No telephone, no Skype,
no instant messaging.
We just had email with a
twenty-minute delay both ways.
So, for an entire year,
we only saw and spoke
to our fellow crew members.
And I was working on how we can
live by producing what we need
from local resources.
I work with green bacteria
called cyanobacteria
that can be fed with elements
found in the soil
in the Martian atmosphere
to create useful compounds.
Either compounds
that we can use directly,
for example oxygen or biofuels,
or compounds that can
be used to feed
other biological organisms,
for example
plants or other bacteria.
And these biological organisms
can be used to create
a small ecosystem
that is indirectly based on
what is found on Mars
and therefore
is almost independent
from the Earth,
and can produce virtually
everything we need.
To settle on Titan, we first need to create a permanent base
using local resources.
Because even if we
reduce travel times,
our new environment will still
be too far from Earth
to be dependent on it.
The first settlers
will be scientists.
Their main mission, initially,
will be to ensure
their survival.
For this,
they will have to overcome
considerable challenges,
the first of which
will be to attain food
This will involve
a real understanding
of the resources
in their new environment.
If the colony
is not self-sustaining,
it will not be able to welcome
new arrivals and grow.
I think those initial
are going to have to be
very hardy people
and they're going to be making
a big sacrifice.
But that's been true
throughout history.
We've had colonists who've
gone out into the Pacific Ocean.
These Polynesians who were
sailing all the way across
the Pacific Ocean
in tiny little boats.
Or Inuit, you know,
who are exploring
and going for the first time
into the Arctic.
And inventing boats and kayaks
and warm clothing and igloos
and all the things they had
to invent to go there.
The hardship they had to
overcome and the darkness.
All these things have been
done before in human history.
It's just that we're going
to be doing it -
because of the time in
history when we live,
we're going to be going
out to a farther place
that's even more extreme, but we
have the technology to do it.
Advances in the field of
biotechnology will be crucial
for the Titanians.
They will enable them to improve agricultural productivity
by focusing on high-energy foods requiring little space,
such as insects,
or even algae,
that will either
be consumed directly
or used as nutrients
for other crops.
There will not be huge wheat
fields or barns on Titan
but high-yield microfarms.
And the first colonists
will have to be open
to a radically different diet
to what we know on Earth.
Some sort of power station, or
power stations, could be set up
where native H2O is taken
and electrolysis is performed
on the water, to split the water
into hydrogen and oxygen.
Humans can then use the oxygen
for breathing,
energy can be derived
from chemical reactions
of the hydrocarbons.
NARRATOR: Little by little,
the initial bases will grow
with the arrival
of new colonists.
But though selected for their ability to adapt and be creative
in an environment where
everything remains to be done,
the pioneers' life
will be tough.
Since at over a billion
kilometers from Earth,
communications will be limited.
The first settlers will have
to deal with acute loneliness
and isolation.
And their homesickness for Earth will be all the more intense
as there will be no going back.
It's not an adventure that
you're gonna go and come back
and do a slide show
but you're actually going
to go and live there.
And you can't come back
because you will -
in that low gravity environment,
your body is going to change.
You're going to lose bone mass,
you're going to lose
muscle mass.
And if you come back, you may
not even survive on the Earth
in full gravity.
NARRATOR: Titan's low gravity
means the new arrivals
will have to stay there,
but it will be easier for them
to move around.
The atmospheric pressure,
similar to Earth's,
will do away with the need
for heavy pressure suits.
As protection against
the minus 180 degree air,
they will have heated suits like those extreme divers wear.
This huge advantage will
allow Titanians to be
in direct contact
with their environment.
LORENZ: So Titan would be
a tremendously exciting place
for humans to explore.
One can imagine exploring
with airplanes
or other vehicles
the Titan environment.
So I think it's really fun
to imagine one day
what it might be like to stand
on Titan's surface
and see the waves
at the shorelines of some
of Titan's seas
or to fly over the
possible cryovolcano,
to maybe ski with a kite
over the sand dunes.
There are all these
fun places to imagine
exploring at a human level.
[ air hisses ]
[ air hisses ]
NARRATOR: With the arrival of new settlers
and the first generations
born there,
the Titanians will extend their territories all over the globe.
Their physiology will not
be the only thing to change.
They will invent a culture,
an economic system, a history.
They will go from mere
survival to development.
They will found
a new civilization.
[ ]
A civilization that will blossom between Titan's surface
and its upper atmosphere,
where the Titanians will create incredible floating cities
enjoying more sunshine.
A civilization whose descendants will gradually forget the Earth
where their ancestors emerged
and speak with a different
voice, a singular voice,
which will take charge
of its own destiny.
Living on the edge
of the solar system,
with significant water
and energy resources,
we Titanians will be
a pioneering race
leading missions beyond it.
And our children will be among the first to take up humankind's
new challenge : to reach one of the universe's many exoplanets.
Titan will no longer be the
distant and mysterious horizon
it has been for centuries,
but the departure point
for new explorations.
[ ]
[ ]