Nasa to send dragonfly drone to Saturn moon Titan

US 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. And, to explore it, the agency will send a multi-rotor vehicle which it calls Dragonfly.

NASA said, Advancing our search for the building blocks of life, the Dragonfly mission will fly multiple sorties to sample and examine sites around Saturn's icy moon. It will be launched in 2026 and arrive in 2034.

Dragonfly will fly to dozens of promising locations on Titan looking for prebiotic chemical processes common on both Titan and Earth. This will be the first time Nasa will fly a multi-rotor vehicle for science on another planet; Dragonfly has eight rotors and flies like a large drone. 

NASA said, it will take advantage of Titan's dense atmosphere four times denser than Earth's to become the first vehicle ever to fly its entire science payload to new places for repeatable and targeted access to surface materials. Titan, an analog to the very early Earth, and can provide clues to how life may have arisen on our planet.

During its 2.7-year baseline mission, Dragonfly will explore diverse environments from organic dunes to the floor of an impact crater where liquid water and complex organic materials key to life once existed together for possibly tens of thousands of years.

Its instruments will study how far prebiotic chemistry may have progressed, while also investigating the moon's atmospheric and surface properties and its subsurface ocean and liquid reservoirs.
Additionally, instruments will search for chemical evidence of past or extant life.

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said, with the Dragonfly, Nasa will once again do what no one else can do. Visiting this mysterious ocean world could revolutionize what we know about life in the universe. This cutting-edge mission would have been unthinkable even just a few years ago, but we're now ready for Dragonfly's amazing flight.

Dragonfly took advantage of 13 years' worth of Cassini (a joint mission between Nasa, ESA, and Italy that studied Saturn) data to choose a calm weather period to land, along with a safe initial landing site and scientifically interesting targets.

It 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. 

NASA said, dragonfly will explore this region in short flights, building up to a series of longer leapfrog flights of up to 5 miles (8 kilometers), stopping along the way to take samples from compelling areas with a diverse geography.

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. The lander will eventually fly more than 108 miles (175 kilometers) nearly double the distance traveled to date by all the Mars rovers combined.

Thomas Zurbuchen, Nasa's associate administrator for Science at the agency's Headquarters in Washington said, Titan is unlike any other place in the solar system, and Dragonfly is like no other mission.

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