Sci-tech

NASA Announces New Dragonfly Drone Mission to Titan

NASA Announces New Dragonfly Drone Mission to Titan

For the space agency's next mission to a new destination in the solar system, NASA will send a miniature helicopter to Titan, Saturn's largest moon.

The spacecraft is scheduled to launch in 2026 and arrive at Titan in 2034, where it will have a life span of at least two-and-a-half years to explore the only other world in the solar system known to have standing liquid on its surface. Dragonfly will be the first multi-rotor vehicle deployed on another planet. The moon is also filled with organic materials, and is thought to be similar to what early Earth might have looked like, before life formed, but with numerous same ingredients.

The lander could eventually fly more than 175km (108 miles) - almost double the distance travelled to date by all Mars rovers combined. Its goal will be to find evidence of liquid water, organic molecules and energy that are key components in forming life. Scientists are hopeful that prebiotic chemistry on Titan will provide clues to how life might have arisen on Earth. The mission is part of the agency's New Frontiers program, which includes the New Horizons mission to Pluto (and beyond) and the Juno mission to Jupiter. This cutting-edge mission would have been unthinkable even just a few years ago, but were now ready for Dragonflys unbelievable flight.

"Titan is unlike any other place in our solar system and the most comparable to early Earth".

More news: India captain Virat Kohli 'surprised' by England's struggles

In addition to a camera, Dragonfly will carry an assortment of scientific instruments: spectrometers to study Titan's composition; a suite of meteorology sensors; and even a seismometer to detect titanquakes when it lands on the ground. NASA scientists were still deciding between Titan explorer and another mission that would have flown to a comet named 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Unlike Earth, Titan has clouds and rain of methane. 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.

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

"Visiting this mysterious ocean world could revolutionize what we know about life in the universe, " said NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine.

An image of four moons of Saturn passing in front of their parent planet in seen this image taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope February 24, 2009 and released by NASA March 17, 2009.


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