spaceSpace and Physics

People Are Asking Why We Cannot Land Astronauts On Saturn

Let's just say there are several important reasons why a mission wouldn't be approved.

James Felton

James Felton

James Felton

James Felton

Senior Staff Writer

James is a published author with four pop-history and science books to his name. He specializes in history, strange science, and anything out of the ordinary.

Senior Staff Writer

Saturn, with its distinctive rings.

Beautiful, but let's not go there.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Have you ever noticed that, among all the wild proposed space missions for far off in the future, they never include a plan to put astronauts on Saturn?

Well, some people out there on the Internet have, and they believe it's part of an ill-defined conspiracy.


People were of course quick to mock the idea, but let's go through the reasons why we aren't sending humans to their deaths on a mission to Saturn

Reason number one: The planet is a type of planet known as a gas giant. The clue really is in the name on this one. You'll notice when looking for ideal walking destinations, they are never made out of gas. 

Saturn, just like fellow gas giant Jupiter, is almost entirely made up of hydrogen and helium, as well as traces of ices that contain water, ammonia, and methane. Deeper down, the hydrogen becomes liquid under the pressure, and below that the heavier helium does the same.


Beneath that, under more pressure, the hydrogen is turned to metallic hydrogen. At the center of all this is a rocky core thought to be about 10 times the mass of the Earth, with a dense interior made up of metals like iron and nickel. So, theoretically, if you went deep enough there could be something to stand on, though it's possible too that the core is liquid. 

However, reason number two – the immense pressure and temperatures inside Saturn – will prevent you from reaching the gloop. The atmospheric pressure on Earth is a little over 1 bar, while within Saturn it reaches over 1 million bar. If astronauts managed to survive being crushed by that (and they wouldn't) they would be burned in temperatures going into the thousands of kelvins.

In short, there is no conspiracy to keep people away from Saturn. You merely cannot land on gas, and getting to the core of the planet would require being crushed to an unrecognizable pulp, before being converted into a vapor. Which doesn't sound like a mission plan that's going to secure much government funding.


spaceSpace and Physics
  • tag
  • solar system,

  • Saturn,

  • gas giants,

  • planets,

  • Space exploration,

  • space travel