NASA's Next Mission Takes Dragonfly Drone To Saturn's Moon, Titan

NASA unveils new mission to fly to Saturn's moon, Titan, which could be home to alien life

NASA unveils new mission to fly to Saturn's moon, Titan, which could be home to alien life

Christened 'Dragonfly', the mission will launch in 2026 and land Titan-side in 2034. According to NASA's announcement, Dragonfly will perform plenty of flybys and examine different locations on Titan which could support chemical processes that are also common on Earth.

Titan's atmosphere is made mostly of nitrogen, like Earth's, but is four times denser.

Despite more pressing ambitions like returning to the Moon, launching a new Mars rover, and even planning a manned mission to the Red Planet, NASA announced today that it's already looking for new adventures, and it plans to start with Saturn's moon Titan. The goal of Dragonfly is to study how far along Titan's chemistry has progressed towards life.

Dragonfly will be able to fly across the skies of Titan and land periodically to take scientific measurements, study the moon's mysterious atmosphere and topography, subsurface ocean and liquid on the surface, while searching for hints of past or present life.

NASA was torn between sending the Dragonfly to either Titan or to a comet known as 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, which had been previously visited by the Rosetta spacecraft.

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It will take eight years for the Dragonfly mission to reach the second largest planet in the solar system. Perhaps we are not alone in this vast universe ... the possibility of extraterrestrials or alien life excites us all, doesn't it. First, the Cassini spacecraft managed to capture the dust storms happening across the surface of this largest of Saturn's moons and just a few days ago, we were told that Titan's lakes might actually be surrounded by crystals. This area is terrestrially similar to the dunes in Namibia in southern Africa.

The 10-foot-long and 10-foot-wide dual-quadcopter is expected to look like an enormous drone, with eight rotors helping it travel from location to location across the moon's surface at a speed of about 5 miles (8 kilometers) in under an hour. In total, the rotorcraft will fly more than 108 miles, or almost double the distance of what NASA's land-based rovers on Mars have traveled.

WASHINGTON-Nasa will fly a drone helicopter mission to cost $1bn (£800m) on Saturn's moon, Titan, in the 2030s. NASA's associate administrator for science, Thomas Zurbuchen said, "The science is compelling and the mission is bold". Because it rains methane, other organics are formed in the atmosphere and fall like light snow. The weather is more complex, with surface processes combining complex organics, energy and water which could have brought life to Earth during its early history. Its surface pressure is also 50 percent higher than Earth's.

Introducing Dragonfly: our next New Frontiers Mission! Dragonfly is led by Principal Investigator Elizabeth Turtle, who is based at Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland.

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