A RHEALIFE: An Explorer’s Journal

This blog-post is from my dream/wish series. I acknowledge there is more imagination here than science and technology, but then dreams have always inspired the sciences haven’t they?


I wanted to not only visit Saturn’s lovely moon Rhea, I wanted to live there, as an explorer; at least for a while. As I dreamed I knew that even if I could hitch a ride on Cassini, I could not live on that icy satellite of Her Majesty, Queen Saturn. I would need incredible breakthroughs in materials science and technology, fusion power systems, and electromagnetic shielding to even consider fulfilling my dream/wish.

Well it all has happened, and I am  here on Rhea. I will be telling you in this 3-part journal how I got here and what needed to be accomplished before I could have this chance to live on Saturn’s second largest moon. I will also tell you what it is like living here and what I am trying to learn while I am here.

I landed on Rhea in 2045. I have been here 2 years. It will be 2047 in just under four weeks. There before me is lovely Saturn. Even though she is over one-half million miles away, she presents a commanding view of herself. I always face her the same way since Rhea is synchronous. That means Rhea orbits Saturn every 4.517500 days and she rotates on her axis every 4.517500 days. For a statistical comparison between Earth’s Luna and Rhea, click here.

A partial JPL map. Click to expand.

Why Rhea? Before I begin to describe all the scientific, engineering and technical breakthroughs that happened to enable this exploration, I take a few lines to state why I choses Rhea. As the partial Saturn moon-map on the left displays, Rhea is in a good place for observing the majority of Saturn’s moons (Rhea highlighted in red). Rhea is an icy moon but with a suspected rocky and/or metallic core. Additionally, an earlier detection (2010) of oxygen and carbon dioxide on Rhea by the spacecraft Cassini added emphasis to my choice.

Although there are over 50 other moons orbiting Saturn, Rhea is just the right distance to also support long-term observations of Saturn and her rings. Additionally, Rhea has a debris ring that can also be closely studied.

The question whether Rhea is a “dirty snowball” or an icy moon with a small but solid core is an important investigation.  The answer to how carbon dioxide is released by Rhea is also a key research item. Additionally, how can both the minimal but constant release of both oxygen and carbon dioxide be put to use as an important resource that supports future research missions on other icy planets and moons? For example, is Pluto (despite its downgrade to a dwarf planet) a host of an even greater abundance of both oxygen and other gaseous elements? Soon, we will know more about that as the New Horizons spacecraft reaches Pluto.

Another important research goal is based upon a unique concept. Billions of years from now, our Sun will begin to die. Part of that process will be its change into a red giant. When this happens along with the creation of a planetary nebula, all the closest planets in our solar system (Mercury to Mars) will be consumed. These are dramatic changes that will impact the entire solar system. Yes, eventually when our Sun collapses then explodes into its supernova, our solar system will be consumed. It will; however, take millions of years from the Red Giant time to that supernova. Is it possible that the outer planets (Jupiter through Pluto) survive during this period and actually become potential safe havens? They, maybe even Mars, could serve as shelter while humankind continues its search for a new home elsewhere in the galaxy? Rhea, with its trickle of oxygen and carbon dioxide, may help supply the answer to that question. In other words can the things I do on Rhea and the systems I use to sustain myself and my research be keys to an intermediate “safe haven” for humankind? Could we use an outer planet or moon to offer humankind with a limited respite as we solemnly bid farewell to Sol?

Yes, I realize that the Sun’s transition into a Red Giant, then a White Dwarf, then a supernova may at some point, even initially, collapse the gravitational environment of our solar system. In that case,  any surviving planets and their moons would simply spin away into oblivion. So far, astronomers have not been able to observe such a phenomena, but I suspect soon we will. I am; however, betting on the Sun, keeping a grip on us for a while at least. I don’t want my time here on Rhea to be for naught.

Some mornings all the alignments are just right, and lovely Saturn in all her glory accompanied by Enceladus and Titan rises before me and my head fills with a full orchestra playing Exsultate Justi.

Next time I will tell what it took to get here. Part II: Foot prints on Rhea: Getting Here


Header image: Astrophotograph by Waddell Robey and Slooh.com (c) 2008 NGC 6888 The Crescent Nebula. (This is a portion of the original image.)

View of Rhea: NASA and Voyager spacecraft.

Map of the Solar System: NASA/JPL

Graphic of the Sun as a Red Giant: Hyperphysics: http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/astro/redgia.html

Explore posts in the same categories: Cassini-Saturn, Deep Space Explorations, Humankind and Exploration, Scientific Research, Super-shuttle space-station, Technology, Urge to Know

4 Comments on “A RHEALIFE: An Explorer’s Journal”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Waddell Robey, Waddell Robey. Waddell Robey said: A RHEALIFE: An Explorer's Journal : http://wp.me/po5Ku-p5 […]

  2. bet365 Says:

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    • Hello and thank you for your comments. The theme for my site is essentially from the WordPress system, but I use a variety of images for my header. WordPress allows you to customize your blog site including the header.

  3. XiNeutrino Says:

    Cassini just this month got a real closeup of Rhea and produced it in a false color image. Take a look here>> http://bit.ly/gR7hcJ

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