Taking into account the physical characteristics of Titan (e.g. surface gravity, atmospheric pressure), what would be the most efficient method of motion for an astronaut to navigate the surface of Titan on foot?

Would it be a leaping or hopping motion? Or would it make more sense to walk somehow? I'm unsure how the friction of the ground would accommodate for that.

For the purpose of this thought experiment, lets assume that humanity has the necessary equipment to put an astronaut on Titan and to have protective clothing to enable reasonable safety from environmental hazards on the surface.

Thanks in advance!

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Could you add the details of Titan's characteristics that you have alluded to in the question? And for example, how do these compare to Earth or the Moon? $\endgroup$
    – Mick
    Dec 14 '18 at 8:58
  • $\begingroup$ The gravity is a comfortable 1.352 m/s2 (0.14 g in comparison with Earth) which equates to .85 Moons. The surface pressure is 146.7 kPa which compares to 1.45 atm (Earth). $\endgroup$
    – Oak
    Dec 14 '18 at 10:23
  • $\begingroup$ -1 It's generally discouraged to post the same question on more than one SE site at a time. It's called cross-posting. An important principle in Stack Exchange is to point people to the best answer. By generating two sets of answers on two sites, cross-posting tends to defeat this purpose and makes more work for others writing potentially duplicate answers. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Dec 15 '18 at 11:08
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    $\begingroup$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is a better fit for the Space Exploration Exchange, to which it was cross-posted: space.stackexchange.com/questions/32846/… $\endgroup$
    – user24157
    May 29 '19 at 6:23

I wonder if this would be better for worldbuilding or space travel, but I can touch on the basics.

You'd need oxygen and protection from the cold, but a space suit on Titan would be less restrictive, not more restrictive than the ones used on the Moon. The pressure isn't too much, so that actually helps and cold temperature is much easier to protect from than a vacuum. They'd probably need some kind of full body wrap to avoid exposure and frostbite, and goggles but that's not terrible hard. Electric heating or just insulation would both be options.

But it's safe to assume that even if they carry an electric heating device, their suits would still be less bulky and less restrictive than the ones the astronauts wore on the Moon.

Hop or Walk?

Very likely hop. I'm going to borrow from this Quora answer, because I agree with it and it makes logical sense. Walking is kind of a controlled fall. Walking in 0.14 g, means your body doesn't fall forward in pace with every step, so walking would be weird and hoping would be easier.

Even on Mars, astronauts might hop due to the lower gravity. If I was to make a wild guess, for comfortable walking I think it would begin somewhere around 50% or 60% Earth gravity. Less then that, the slower rate of falling with each step and the lighter body weight, I think hopping is the way to go.

The human brain and inner ear begins to stop working somewhere around lunar gravity. There are videos of astronauts on the moon falling forward and looking clumsy, but they were very fit individuals. In low enough gravity the human brain loses a sense of which way is down. (I read that, I'll see if I can find a link).

I would think, if it was for an extended time there, astronauts on Titan would wear lead boots, to help with their sense of which way is down and also for helping maintain musculature, but that's just speculation on my part. There are other ways to maintain musculature.

Titan's surface might/probably gets soggy as well and humans aren't buoyant in methane lakes the way they are in water, (so maybe the lead boots aren't a good idea). Falling into a lake or falling through ice into a like might happen on titan, but they'd be wearing full body wraps and have oxygen, so falling into a methane lake wouldn't necessarily mean death, they could probably get fished out and rescued.

Long story short, hopping is likely the way to go, and perhaps, either some kind of snow-shoe feature or perhaps an ice/jagged edges feature if parts of Titan's surface are slippery. I'm far from an expert in such things, this is just my best guess.


TL;DR: by flapping wings.

I don't have the book at hand, but as far as I can remember Isaac Asimov argued in Change! : 71 Glimpses of the Future that humans could fly in the Moon (assuming a closed pressurised venue) just by attaching wings to their arms and flapping - as the mythological Icarus allegedly did, but benefiting from the much lower gravity.

Surface gravity in Titan is lower than in the Moon, and atmospheric pressure is larger than in Earth. Therefore, flying in Titan should be even easier than flying in the Moon.

Furthermore, walking in low gravity is not practical in the Moon, and it will be even less practical against a tick atmosphere.

Then, flapping wings with our arms would be a convenient way of moving around in Titan.

On a more moderate view, a combination of hoping and paddling with small hand-held wings (probably similar to holding light shields) could be more practical for most people.


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