How to Fly on Titan

My trip to Titan is almost over. Soon, I’ll have to find some other planet or moon to blog from. But before I leave, there’s one last thing I want to do: fly.

Titan’s atmosphere is about 50% denser than the atmosphere on Earth. Combine that with the low surface gravity (a mere 14% of Earth normal) and it should be possible, theoretically, for me to put on some wings and flap around in the sky like a bird.

Taking my cue from the myth of Icarus, my artificial wings will not be made of wax, although it’s cold enough here on Titan that there’d be no danger of wax wings melting.

So with my non-wax wings strapped to my arms, I leap into the air, and….

Ag31 Flight on Titan 1

Okay, that didn’t go according to plan, so I turn to the Internet for help (the wifi on Titan is surprisingly good, by the way). I soon find this helpful article from the Journal of Physics Special Topics.

One option is that I try to get a running start. I’m really going to have to sprint here; average human running speed (6 m/s) won’t cut it. I need to reach a minimum of 11 m/s. And…

Ag31 Flight on Titan 2

… nope. I’m a nerd, not an athlete. Sprinting isn’t my thing.

So my next option is to build bigger wings. According to the paper from Physics Special Topics, the total area of my wings needs to be at least 4.7 m2. I’ll go for 5 m2, just to be safe.

The good news is that once I’m off the ground, I won’t need to use much energy to stay aloft. Flying on Titan should be “effortless and relatively easy […] without any sort of propulsion device.” Sounds like just a little light flapping should do the trick.

Okay, so here we go.

Ag31 Flight on Titan 3

P.S.: The Journal of Physics Special Topics may be my new favorite scientific periodical, with articles covering topics like cows jumping over the Moon, the effects of general relativity on Santa Claus, and the atmospheric loss caused by opening a portal between Earth and the Moon (as depicted in the video game Portal 2).

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