I was told that building a tunnel into the centre of Enceladus is not possible, since it has subsurface ocean and molten, rocky core.

But its brother, Mimas is a bit smaller, and shows no sign of geological activity. (is probably solid inside) This makes the moon less interesting, but perhaps would allow the tunnelling.

Could a human-supporting tunnel be built into the centre of Mimas (Saturn's satellite) using near future tech (mainly present day materials)?


1 Answer 1



All you need to do is melt your way to the core, and being made mostly of ice the should be no core. The most practical, and awesome, is a Nuclear Powered Drill which uses heat from a fission reaction and/or radioactive decay to melt its way through. Bonus the water immediately boils away.

  • $\begingroup$ Melt? Going to start that argument again? $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Apr 15, 2017 at 7:21
  • $\begingroup$ @JDługosz if water would boil away, then no need to carry or pump anything and your arguments from linked answer are void. $\endgroup$
    – Mołot
    Apr 15, 2017 at 11:51
  • $\begingroup$ @JDługosz Let's examine your claims. I'll ignore the fact we currently lack the tech to pipe and pump lava. Heating rock to a liquid requires an enormous amount of energy because the temp change and density are higher than water. We don't need to heat it to 0, under a vacuum ice sublimates at -70 or -60 so the change in tempo required is not so severe. Also, Ice is a poor conductor so the heat loss to the surrounding material is not a real limiting factor. With the properly shaped drill head, you can take advantage of that. Power is not an issue when it is a nuclear reactor. $\endgroup$ Apr 15, 2017 at 14:21
  • $\begingroup$ @JDługosz I agree that the ductility of the ice is an issue, and if making it into pykrete isn't strong enough then there is nothing to keep the nuclear drill from being followed by machinery to reinforce the tunnel with methods we would use here on earth. When working in space you want as few moving parts as possible, which is the biggest advantage to this drill. Built correctly it will have hardly any at all, all it needs to do it be hot and touch the ice. $\endgroup$ Apr 15, 2017 at 14:27

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .