Humans might be able to fly on Titan—if they use large enough wings

Illustration for article titled Humans might be able to fly on Titan—if they use large enough wings

Wingsuits let humans glide through the air on Earth, but could they let us fly like birds on another world? A paper suggests that humans could achieve takeoff and flight on Saturn's moon Titan, but only if they get a good running start first and strap on some large wings.


The paper, titled "You can fly," was published in the University of Leicester's Journal of Physics Special Topics, which introduces physics students to the peer-review process by having them research and write short papers, and it examines the claim that humans would be able to fly on Titan with wings strapped to their arms. Looking at the atmosphere and gravity on Titan, the authors of the study calculated the wing area and propulsion speed that would be required for takeoff. It might involve some pretty big wings; in order to takeoff using a standard wingsuit with a wing area of 1.4 square meters, a human would need to run at a speed of 11 meters per second. At the average human running speed of 6 meters per second, a flier would need a suit with a wing area of 4.7 square meters for a successful launch.

That's hardly the end of the story, however. The paper doesn't investigate the relative difficulty of achieving such a takeoff speed on Titan, nor how the wingsuit's drag would factor into those takeoff speeds. It does note, however, that a propulsion device could be used to get humans aloft on that moon, and that, once in the air, humans would likely be able to live out their bird-like fantasies.


You can fly [University of Leicester's Journal of Physics Special Topics via LiveScience]

Share This Story

Get our newsletter


Reminds me of a short story that I read as a kid. I forget if the setting was Titan or somewhere else, but the idea was that because of the low gravity people could fly, but only if they where young and small enough. The protagonist was a girl who was getting older and close to the point where she wouldn't meet the requirement, and some of the story went into how many calories she had to keep off in order to keep flying.