NASA plans to send a drone to Saturn's largest moon

Katie Ramirez
June 28, 2019

The drone is slated to launch in 2026 and arrive at Titan in 2034.

Titan's surface lakes, rivers and seas aren't composed of water, however: The frigid moon's climate system is based on hydrocarbons, in particular methane and ethane.

Titan might provide scientists clues on how life began on Earth.

"The instruments on board will help us investigate organic chemistry, evaluate habitability and search for chemical signatures of past or even present life".

It marks the first time Nasa will fly a multi-rotor driven vehicle for science on another planet.

When the Huygens probe landed on Titan in 2005, researchers had no idea what to expect.

Dragonfly should be able to measure the progression to determine if life is beginning to form and, if so, how far along it is.

The instruments on the spacecraft will search for chemical evidence of past or extant life, according to NASA.

Announcing the mission, Jim Bridenstine, Nasa administrator, said the space agency was "pushing the boundaries of human knowledge and expanding the limits of technology". Visiting this mysterious ocean world could revolutionize what we know about life in the universe.

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"This revolutionary mission would have been unthinkable just a few short years ago".

[Dragonfly] will first land at the equatorial "Shangri-La" dune fields, which are terrestrially similar to the linear dunes in Namibia in southern Africa and offer a diverse sampling location.

The rotorcraft will hop on the moon's surface in a series of leapfrog flights of up to eight km in order to take samples in diversified locations. Turtle called the crater a "high-priority target" because it's a place where "organics and liquid water may have mixed in the past". The drone-like lander will be able to fly more than 100 miles through Titan's atmosphere.

The Mars Rover-sized drone will also explore sand dunes on Titan to research the moon's organic material.

"Dragonfly will visit a world filled with a wide variety of organic compounds, which are the building blocks of life and could teach us about the origin of life itself, "said NASA's Thomas Zurbuchen". Its clouds and rains are methane. Other organics are formed in the atmosphere and fall like light snow. That mission measured the temperature, pressure and density of the atmosphere and took pictures of the moon's surface.

"Titan is unlike any other place in the solar system, and Dragonfly is like no other mission".

U.S. space agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) has announced that its next destination in the solar system is the unique, richly organic world Titan - Saturn's largest moon.

The newly announced Dragonfly mission will be developed and led by Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory in the USA state of Maryland.

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