Despite being a gas giant, and being chilly cold, there are a few reasons I believe Saturn would be an ideal habitat for future colonisation, and here are a few justifications:

  • Saturn actually has a closer gravity to Earth than even Venus- Saturn's gravity is only 6% higher than Earth, compared to Venus having nearly 10% lower gravity than Earth. 10% may not seem like a BIG difference at first glance, but if a astronaut ever returns from Venus after a very long time, there might be chances of slightly weakened bones. And stronger gravity on Saturn means that humans can actually develop strong bones and muscles, without at the same time be crushed to death, by immense forces.
  • Saturn has lower radiation levels- As per my understanding, Jupiter has Chernobyl-level radiation, as its moon Io regularly spews out volcanic material, which forms a strong radiation belt that can kill humans, if they decided to colonize areas near Jupiter such as Europa. However, as Saturn doesn't exert enormous tidal forces on its moon, there is virtually no radiation belt, or atleast something that is comparable to Earth's radiation belts (Van Allen belts) or even lower.
  • Saturn is a reserve of geothermal Kronothermal energy- One reason why airships can actually function on gas giants, is because, gas giants have immense heat in their interiors. A future airship colony could plunge conductive cables into the deep atmosphere to harvest heat to heat up the hydrogen gas so that they can get sufficient lift to float in a hydrogen-dominated atmosphere. Jupiter could also be used to harvest geothermal Zeuthermal energy, but as I mentioned, crushing gravity and intense radiation make it an uninhabitable place.
  • Saturn is a reservoir of wind energy- Wind speeds on Saturn are immense, about 1700kph. If we could use wind turbines to harvest the wind on Saturn, we could possess immense power. Neptune is also a candidate for this, but it requires a long time to be reached by humans, hence omitted.
  • Saturn has low radiation levels- Before people read my previous point and point out that Mars and Venus are easily reachable, they should perhaps see that Venus and Mars are bombarded with UV radiation the likes of which has never been seen before on Earth. Saturn is far away from the Sun, and thus receives virtually no radiation.
  • Saturn has useful chemicals and elements- Although there is no soil on Saturn, there are a few chemicals in its atmosphere that can be used for making fertilizers, pesticides etc. Ammonia, a crucial gas that is used for making fertilizers on Earth, is present in abundance in Saturn's atmosphere, and sulphur compounds can be used to make pesticides and important chemicals such as sulfuric acid. Soil cannot be found here, but since there is a virtually inexhaustible source of fertilizers, there would be no problem of soil exhaustion, or fatigueing shipments of soil from Earth. Compare that to Mars, which has alkaline, toxic soils, and Venus, which has virtually no soil at all.

The main question is:

Are there any problems in my justification for using Saturn as a future base?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ "Zeuthermal": The compound form of Zeus may be Zeno-, for example Zenodotus "Given by Zeus", the first Director of the Library of Alexandria. But much more common as a compound form is Dio-, Dios-, as in the Dioscuri "Boys of Zeus", who eventually became the constellation Gemini, or Diogenes "Descendant from Zeus". **Zeu-thermal is meaningless. Either Diothermal or possibly Zenothermal. (The genitive of Ζεύς Zeús is either Διός Diós or Ζηνός Zēnós.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Sep 25, 2022 at 19:22
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ But Saturn is not Zeus' planet! That is Jupiter. Professor AlexP, how would one call energy from Saturn? Hadothermal? $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Commented Sep 25, 2022 at 22:02
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    $\begingroup$ @Willk: I would call it geothermal of course. The question has "kronothermal", from the Greek name of the planet; the word is correctly formed, but I would not use it. (Fun factoid: in Greek, the planets go Hermes, Aphrodite, Gaia, Ares, Zeus, Kronos, Ouranos, Poseidon.) (Those are the Ancient Greek forms. Modern Greek is a different language and I know very little about it; some forms are different, but I only know only that Gaia is Gê and Zeus is Días.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Sep 25, 2022 at 23:11
  • $\begingroup$ "Saturn is a reservoir of wind energy- Wind speeds on Saturn are immense" - But what would you anchor the wind turbines to in order to harness the wind energy? Same goes for the airships you're proposing people live in... $\endgroup$
    – komodosp
    Commented Sep 26, 2022 at 13:13
  • $\begingroup$ "Saturn's gravity is only 6% higher than Earth" What the heck does this mean? The strength of gravity depends on how far you are from the planet. And Saturn does not have a surface so there is no benchmark. You have to be in orbit. And Gravity is zero if you are in orbit! It boggles the mind! $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Commented Oct 14, 2022 at 12:53

4 Answers 4

  • Saturn's gravity is only 6% higher than Earth

Saturn in fact doesn't even have a surface. "Surface gravity" for gas giants is defined as the 1-bar level, where atmospheric pressure is similar to Earth's. This severely limits the available materials for building and sustaining a colony and greatly complicates the problem of building anything there.

Additionally, while the "surface" gravity is only a little higher than that of Earth, the escape velocity from the same level is far higher...35.5 km/s, over 3 times Earth's 11.2 km/s. The delta-v cost of reaching a minimal orbit will be greater by a similar proportion. Realistically, we don't have any propulsion system capable of the sort of delta-v required to reach orbit from Saturn.

  • Jupiter has Chernobyl-level radiation...

This is an argument for not colonizing Jupiter or its inner moons, not for colonizing Saturn.

  • Venus and Mars are bombarded with UV radiation

...which can be blocked with sunscreen. Someone exposed enough to be vulnerable to UV radiation on either of these would be far more concerned about their imminent death by asphyxiation, immolation, or exposure to near-anhydrous sulfuric acid. They would not survive if similarly exposed on Saturn, either.

  • Kronothermal energy

You will not be able to simply dangle cables into the warm interior to collect energy. Aside from the wind issue, to generate power you need a conveniently accessible temperature gradient, not just a hot location.

  • Saturn has useful chemicals and elements

Saturn's atmosphere is almost entirely hydrogen and helium, with only trace amounts of other substances. Even if you could collect useful amounts of ammonia and sulfur compounds from the clouds, there is little you can do with those in the absence of, well, everything else on the periodic table. Saturn's atmosphere is cripplingly resource-poor.

Venus at least has a surface you could conceivably gather materials from, and the surface of Mars is rich in useful minerals, while the toxicity issues are ridiculously overblown: perchlorates are a little more toxic than table salt, their low-level effects can be reduced with iodine supplements, they are rapidly excreted rather than accumulating in the body, and they are quite easy to remove or destroy.


Saturn has an escape velocity of 35.5 km/s compared to Earth's 11 km/s. It means you need about 9 times the energy to get to orbit.

The maximum temperature is 151 K, which is about 30 degrees colder than the coldest temperature ever observed on Earth.

The atmosphere is 96.3% Hydrogen, 3.25% Helium, 0.45% Methane, and traces of other stuff.

So, not exactly a garden spot.

  • $\begingroup$ Escape velocity is more than the velocity you need to get to orbit (Escape velocity is $\sqrt{2}$ times the circular orbit velocity for the chosen distance), but I admit calculating delta-v to hit orbit gets a bit hinky when you have to calculate atmospheric drag as well. $\endgroup$
    – notovny
    Commented Sep 26, 2022 at 13:10
  • $\begingroup$ @notovny Yes certainly it is more complicated than just multiplying. The surface speed of rotation at the equator could, for example, give you a boost. Saturn being larger will have a useful speed. And it depends on the specific orbit you want. And there is a big factor due to getting through the atmosphere, and that's quite complicated. But as a back-of-the-napkin estimate, the energy you need is proportional to the square of the velocity you need. Very roughly 3 times the velocity so 9 times the energy. $\endgroup$
    – BillOnne
    Commented Sep 26, 2022 at 19:59

Bad idea

First, BillOnne's answer is quite correct - anyone who goes there is staying there permanently, the delta v to get to orbit is prohibitive. Which does not, in and of itself, make colonisation impossible, just a one way trip with no escape possible if things go wrong. Which leads to the next points...

You note (peak) wind speeds of 1700 km/hour as an advertisement for wind power. However, the real issue is 1700 km/hour relative to what. You have correctly assessed that colonists would need to be occupying airships "floating" in the atmosphere, since the pressures at depth would crush any human-occupied structure easily. Which means that if everything was going well, a human-occupied colony airship would be zipping along at 1700 km/hr relative to an outside observer, but at close to zero relative to the atmosphere it is floating in. Practical upshot - usable wind speed for power generation is nowhere near the windspeed perceived by an outside observer. Although there still will be relative wind speed, as described below.

It gets worse, though. Systems with high wind speed are never a uniform speed all the way through and are never a consistent speed at all altitudes. (Note that most aircraft do their best not to fly into hurricanes / cyclones - it's not the absolute speed but the windshear and turbulence that make this an activity reserved for hardened aircraft and harder pilots conducting weather research.) As Saturn's wind systems interact any habitat will be tossed around like a kite in a tornado, making normal life impossible. The difference in speeds at different altitudes will also make it impossible for any cables to allow geothermal/kronothermal power generation to last more than a fraction of a second before snapping.

Short version, any colony dropped into Saturn's atmosphere will be tossed around in the very cold, stormy air, with no way for colonists to escape or find somewhere safe to effect repairs when something breaks.

  • $\begingroup$ "just a one way trip with no escape possible if things go wrong". I can picture a penal colony. Kinda like Australia was. ^.^ $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 27, 2022 at 17:34
  • $\begingroup$ @DuncanDrake yes, on reflection I thought about whether an isolationist group might choose to exile themselves there, but permanent banishment is also a possibility. From a hard science viewpoint I stand by my answer, but I think that a story could still be told of a group of exiles with less handwavium required than most science fiction already has. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 27, 2022 at 23:04

Frame Challenge: Saturn itself is a poor choice for colonisation, but some of its moons, Titan and Enceladus in particular, are not bad options. It won't be paradise, but both have a solid surface and exploitable resources, probably enough for a future human civilisation to survive there, with the occasional resupply ship.


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