NASA chooses Saturn's moon Titan as its next destination

NASA chooses Saturn's moon Titan as its next destination

NASA is planning to send a lander mission to Titan, Saturn's giant moon by 2026.

But there's a while to wait before find out, as it will be 2034 before the Dragonfly mission lands on Titan's surface. Dragonfly marks the first time NASA will fly a multi-rotor vehicle for science on another planet; it has eight rotors and flies like a large drone.

The second-largest moon in the solar system, Titan has a thick water ice crust, beneath which is an ocean made primarily of water.

The drone-like rotorcraft-lander, dubbed Dragonfly, will take advantage of Titan's dense atmosphere and low gravity, traveling to and from a variety of test sites in search of signs of biological activity.


Dragonfly is a Mars rover-sized drone that will be able to fly from place to place on Titan.

It will finally reach the Selk impact crater, where there is evidence of past liquid water and organics - the complex carbon-based molecules that are vital for life.

With a distance of 1 billion miles from the sun, scientists say the excruciatingly cold moon resembles early earth.

The Dragonfly mission is part of Nasa's competitive New Frontiers Program and is aimed at understanding how chemistry gave way to biology. The projected lenght of its mission on the surface is 2.7 years.


The spacecraft will be at once a drone and a lander, created to take advantage of Titan's Earth-like gravitational field and aerodynamics to maximize its ability to explore. Because of the nature of its atmosphere, Titan is chemically very much like our world's primordial past.

In addition to studying this "pre-biotic chemistry", Dragonfly carries instruments that can investigate the moon's atmosphere and the ocean that is thought to lie beneath its surface.

In a news release today, the University of Idaho announced NASA selected the mission, known as Dragonfly, and funded it for up to $850 million. Those two teams, led by Elizabeth "Zibi" Turtle at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab and Steve Squyres at Cornell University, respectively, have spent the last two years further developing their designs. Its remarkable to think of this rotorcraft flying miles and miles across the organic sand dunes of Saturns largest moon, exploring the processes that shape this extraordinary environment. It is the fourth of the agency's New Frontier line of medium-class planetary science missions. The high-altitude haze is thought to be similar in nature to that seen at Saturn's moon Titan.


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