Monday, 16 December, 2019

NASA's New Mission to Explore Saturn's Moon Titan — Dragonfly

NASA's New Mission to Explore Saturn's Moon Titan — Dragonfly NASA's New Mission to Explore Saturn's Moon Titan — Dragonfly
Sandy Nunez | 30 June, 2019, 18:10

NASA announced Thursday that it is sending a billion-dollar flying robot to explore the surface of Saturn's largest moon, Titan, as part of a new mission called "Dragonfly". The agency revealed on Thursday, June 27 that it is planning to launch a mission called Dragonfly, a rotorcraft-lander created to fly dozens of promising locations across the icy moon that could have sparked biology on the early earth.

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. The quadcopter will also collect soil samples at different sites across the moon's surface. "Additionally, instruments will search for chemical evidence of past or extant life".

The Dragonfly aircraft would fly above the frozen Titan surface in search of the building blocks of life. "It's remarkable to think of this rotorcraft flying miles and miles across the organic sand dunes of Saturn's largest moon, exploring the processes that shape this extraordinary environment".

Saturn's Moon Titan has its own seasonal cycles, winds, river, and lakes but with an exotic twist. "The atmosphere is four times denser at the surface than the atmosphere at the surface of Earth and the gravity is about one-seventh of the gravity here on Earth". At first these flights will be short, but eventually it will execute "a longer series of 'leapfrong flights of up to 5 miles (8 kilometers), stopping along the way to take samples from comelling areas with diverse geography". In the years after the July 20, 1969 moon landing during the Apollo 11 mission, NASA was recording over its tapes or selling them to cut costs, said Gary George, who was a college student when he bought more than 1,100 reels of NASA videotape for about $218 at a government surplus auction in 1976.

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NASA will use 13 years' worth of data from the Cassini mission to prepare Dragonfly to survey Titan. It will finally reach the Selk impact crater, where there is evidence of past liquid water, organics - the complex molecules that contain carbon, combined with hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen - and energy, which together make up the recipe for life. It orbits Saturn and is located about 886 million miles from the sun, making it 10 times farther from the sun than Earth.

New Frontiers is a major space exploration program that is being spearheaded by NASA. Entry is FREE - the deadline is Friday 28th June.

The moon is probably the most promising spot in the solar system because of its thick atmosphere, methane deposits, ice formations, and vast oceans.

"We're absolutely thrilled and ready to jump on it and get going to go to Titan", Turtle said on a NASA webcast.