Triton is by far the largest moon of Neptune, and the seventh largest moon in the Solar System. Triton has many similarities with the other large moons of the gas giants. Colonizing it will be extremely challenging, but it might serve as a good base when trying to harvest resources of Neptune.
The diameter of Triton is about 2 700 kilometres. This is about 21 percent of the diameter of the Earth and slightly less than the Moon. The mass of Triton is about the half of the Moon, and so, the gravity is about half of that experienced on the Moon.
The core of Triton is most likely composed of silicates and metals. On top of the core, there is a large layer of ice, which is the mantle of the moon. It’s possible, that this mantle is partly liquid because of the heat radiated from the core. Tritons crust is composed of frozen water, carbon dioxide and nitrogen.
Orbit and rotation
Triton has a special orbit, as it orbits Neptune opposite the direction of rotation of Neptune. It orbits around Neptune in approximately six days. Like many other moons, Triton is tidally locked, so the same side always faces Neptune. Because of the direction of the orbit, it is very likely that Triton is an object captured by Neptune.
Triton is a rather flat object, but some interesting surface features can be found. Triton has active volcanoes, so its surface is rather new. Instead of rocky lava, the volcanoes on Triton erupt water and ammonia. Because of the new surface, there aren’t many craters.
Triton has a thin atmosphere. It consists mainly of nitrogen, with some parts of carbon dioxide. There are also traces of methane near the surface. The thin atmosphere is created by nitrogen evaporating from the surface.
Triton is one of the coldest objects in our Solar System. The common temperature on Triton is around −235 °C. There are some warmer periods because of the summer, but regarding colonization, this has no practical effect. Therefore, humans should be well insulated from the surrounding environment.
Triton is located far from the Earth, so traveling there takes many years. With ordinary rocket engines the trip takes almost ten years, so without advancements in spacecraft traveling would be very challenging. With technological advancement, it could be possible to travel there in a couple of years, if not faster.
Habitats on Triton could be built in very similar manner to other cold objects. The cold temperatures will be a problem, so the habitats should be well insulated. One option would be to build underground habitats, and if there is an ocean under the crust, the temperatures could be more suitable for humans there.
Using solar power would be unfeasible because of the long distance from the Sun. In the future it could be possible to use nuclear fusion reactors, and the fuel, helium-3, could be brought from Neptune.
Because of the distance, the communication to the Earth would be cumbersome. On average, it takes about four hours for one message to be delivered, so the colonizers should be able to work independently, without support from the Earth.
We do not yet have enough information about Triton to say, if there are very valuable resources. Some resources could be used to manufacture rocket fuel. Triton could be also used as a base to harvest the resources of Neptune. Also, it already contains water, which is necessary for life as we know it.
There are some suggestions on how Triton should be terraformed. Triton already has nitrogen and water, which are important for life. Because Triton is a cold place, we should warm it up somehow. After that, we could create a breathable atmosphere, which should be renewed from time to time, as it would disappear to space because of the weak gravity. If it has a large underground ocean, melting of Tritons surface would mean that the whole Triton would be covered by water. Therefore, we would need to create artificial islands and continents.
Triton is the largest moon of Neptune, and one of the largest moons in the Solar System. Because of the remote location, we only know little about it. The temperatures are cold, but if we would be able to build well insulated bases, colonizing it might be possible. It could be used as a base when trying to harvest resources of Neptune. Triton already has water and nitrogen, which are important for life.