Liquid hydrocarbons? That sounds like the sort of stuff we can run our cars on!
What are the logistics involved in getting a pipeline up there?
NASA scientists have announced that at least one of the giant lakes previously spied on Saturn's moon Titan contains liquid hydrocarbons - making it the "only body our solar system beyond Earth known to have liquid on its surface", as the agency puts it. The lakes were identified by the Cassini spacecraft, and although …
NASA announced today that they had proven hydrocarbon reserves which far exceeded that of all of the oil majors combined. A spokesman said that although the reserves would be "challenging" to exploit, it was clear that with the increasing price of oil, the organisation's future was assured. OPEC declined to comment.
NASA shares closed up 30% on the announcement.
We can't get anything sizeable there like a platform - we can't get it back onto Earth without extreme risk of mega-flambe and it would take 14-15 years to deliver a load, therefore this is a scientific curio, but irrelevant for the rest of us.
Come back in 300 years when we've spiffo warp drives and therefore will not need petrol.
This means that it is no longer a requirement for probes, and other space faring craft to carry all the fuel they need.
It is reasonable(?) to be able to send a craft to Titan/Saturn and DESIGN in a return trip; DESIGN in a stop by for a 'top up' for extended exploration of the Saturn (or other) systems.
Of course SF stories talk about fly-bys of gas giants to scoop Hydrogen from the top of their atmospheres for fuel, and an un-manned craft *might* be able to do this - BUT - our gas giants have a sufficiently large gravitational pull, and electrical/radio/radiation emissions that it would seem more likely to to lose the craft.
Titan is a much smaller world and therefore has a much smaller gravitational well,
and (as far as I know) no, or FAR FAR less emissions, making close approach reasonable.
I doubt that a "pipe-line" from Titan to Earth would ever be financially reasonable - but it might be useful for extended trips around the solar system
And here's me, apparently the only one who read this article that would have the presence of mind to ask the simple question...
Where did they come from?
It is my understanding that hydrocarbons are created by decaying biological matter on earth. If that is the case here then we have an interesting pointer to life outside our own planet. If the hydrocarbons have been created by another means, equally interesting source of potential fuel production technology which doesn't depend on drilling holes in the ground...
So here is the future.
America develops huge laser beam powered by Saturn specific hydrocarbon generator. Race to saturn takes place to stake a claim.
Install laser fire back to earth gather energy in earth orbiting satilites. fire stored energy back to surface. Do you really think these guys would leave this energy source untouched. All the CO2 dumped into the atmosphere on Saturn clean electricity here on earth....ITS THE FUTURE;).
A fly-by and scoop is feasible because it relies on the gravitational energy of the planet and the velocity of the craft. A land on the surface and deploy large pipe, that however is nigh on impossible.
We can, most of the time' manage to land probes, but then refuel (with a fuel that they don't even use) and take off again, no, that's a stupid idea.
...and remind everyone that by the time you get out of Earth's gravity well, your profit will have gone. Even if the Moon were covered with pure gold nuggets, it could not be made profitable to bring them to Earth with today's technology. As for Titan, our travels there are solely for the pursuit of scientific knowledge (which is beyond price). There is nothing in existence that is expensive enough to make it profitable to go to Titan to get it.
Unless... Maybe I'm just not thinking big enough. Maybe I don't have the vision or the necessary experience for this. Maybe I, and everyone else, are just too far from the action. Maybe if we took a a man who started out as a mere scion of a major US business family, worked his way through the oil industry, and finally became president, maybe if we sent *him* to Titan, he could put his talents to work on the resources there and reap his just reward. Go to it, GWB! The world is not enough!
You've seen too many commercials. Yes, coal comes from decayed biomass. Coal deposits are not oil deposits. Coal contains a very high proportion of carbon. That's why its stable, and also why coal fires don't automatically consume all coal reserves. It needs O2.
Oil is a complex substance that comes from a different reaction. Take carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, bury it deep, apply heat, catalytic reactions. It could be coal, but more likely, it is stuff like calcium carbonate and other trapped ocean sediments, which may be in biomass, or may not be. Maybe mix in radioactive decay to convert trapped some of the trapped hydrogen into helium, and in time, with luck, you may have oil.
However, the hydrocarbons on Titan are much simpler molecules like CH4 (that's cow farts to you 3rd graders out there). In space, this is most likely comet material, trapped in a 95% nitrogen-based roach motel so it can't get out. Unless you trap this under a lot of weight and heat, it'll never be oil as we know it. With a nitrogen atmosphere, you can be reasonably sure that there is a level of equilibrium here that provides a CH4-based weather cycle. (gaseous CH4 is lighter than N2)