NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has released a series of travel posters advertising the pleasures of extraterrestrial exploration, from the cryovolcanoes of Enceladus to the methane lakes of Titan. They're gorgeous. And if you don't want to support American exploration of space after seeing them, we suggest you take another look at The Right Stuff. (Take our tax money — please!)
On closer examination, though, a few of NASA's travel recommendations don't hold up. Let's review.
Key attraction: Polar caps made entirely of dry ice
Possibility of survival: Nil. Unless you're Matt Damon — in which case, reasonable.
How you will die: Toss-up between extreme cold, lack of oxygen and radiation
Key attraction: Fields of yardangs shaped by Venusian winds
Possibility of survival: Literally zero
How you will die: Buyer's choice! Incineration from 450-degree Celsius atmosphere, body-smash from extreme atmospheric pressure (similar to that of 900 meters below Earth's surface) or just the sulfuric rain.
Destination: Enceladus, Saturn's sixth-largest moon
Key attraction: Cryovolcanoes near the moon's southern pole, which shoot water vapor and assorted planetary debris into space — 400 pounds of it per second
Possibility of survival: Not as low as you might think, particularly for alien lifeforms
How you will die: For now, file under "space" — but under active investigation
Destination: Titan, Saturn's largest moon
Key attraction: Lakes filled with "liquid hydrocarbons" that were formed by a similar process to the one responsible for sinkholes on Earth. Also, the sight of Saturn itself, which, from the surface of Titan, takes up one-third to one-half of the sky.
Possibility of survival: Not too shabby! With air pressure 1.5 times Earth's, there's no need for a pressurized space suit — just a mask to deal with an atmosphere that's 95 percent nitrogen and five percent methane.
How you would die: Exposure to cold: it's -179 Celsius
Key attraction: Grand Canyon, your house
Possibility of survival: Decent, for a while
How you would die: TBD; land war with China?