NASA to send drone to Saturn's moon for clues on human origins

NASA plans to send a drone to Saturn's largest moon

The space agency announced today (June 27) that the next mission in its New Frontiers line of medium-cost missions will be Dragonfly, a rotorcraft created to ply the skies of the huge, hazy and potentially life-hosting Saturn moon. "NASA is pushing the boundaries of human knowledge and expanding the limits of technology". 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. Dragonfly's development costs are capped at $850 million, though the mission's total price tag, including launch, will probably top $1 billion. And OSIRIS-REX, an asteroid-sampling mission is now in orbit around the asteroid Bennu, looking for a safe place to grab a sample next year.

Titan is an unusual yet familiar place.

Some even speculate that Titan's low temperatures and the absence of atmospheric oxygen could allow for exotic silicon-based life. Mountainous dunes pepper its landscape.

Thomas Zurbuchen, Nasa's associate administrator for science, said: "Titan is unlike any other place in the solar system, and Dragonfly is like no other mission".

The underground ocean could harbor life as we know it, while the hydrocarbon lakes and seas on the moon's surface could contain life forms that rely on different chemistries - or the body could be lifeless.

The newly announced Dragonfly mission will be developed and led by Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory in the USA state of Maryland. The new mission will pull clues from Cassini, an global spacecraft that surveyed Saturn and moons for 13 years.


This won't be the first landing on Titan: That happened back in 2005, when the Cassini spacecraft dropped off the Huygens lander to send back the first pictures from the moon's cloud-obscured surface. It captured about four hours of data before its batteries died.

Dragonfly will launch in 2026 and arrive in 2034.

Dragonfly's first destination is dune fields that are terrestrially similar to dunes found in southern Africa. 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 diverse geography. Or else, it's also possible that liquid methane can serve the same role as water in the life-forming process.

Once on Titan, the mission is expected to last for about 2.5 years, during which time the probe will perform around 25 hops and fly a total distance of around 180 kilometers (110 miles), according to NASA.

Curt Niebur, the lead program scientists for NASA's New Frontiers program, explained during the press event that this makes Selk Crater an excellent proxy for ancient Earth, and what it might have looked like before life arose.

Related News:

  • Huawei employees worked with China military on research projects

    Huawei employees worked with China military on research projects

    Bloomberg was unable to contact the employees listed or determine whether they remain at the company. The reports were based on public records that include research written by Huawei employees.
    Long line of Israeli-Palestinian peace bids precede Trump push

    Long line of Israeli-Palestinian peace bids precede Trump push

    The Palestinian Authority is not attending the Bahrain meeting, saying only a political solution will solve the problem. The attempt to lure the Palestinians with 50 billion dollars in investment has yet to work its charm.
    IOS 13 Public Beta Rolled Out - How To Install It

    IOS 13 Public Beta Rolled Out - How To Install It

    Apple also has its own version of street view that it says will let users explore cities "with an immersive 3D experience". In several other apps, you can also use two fingers to pinch the keyboard to shrink it to iOS mobile size.
  • Democrats Clash in Fiesty Debate

    Democrats Clash in Fiesty Debate

    Together, the debates are the first high-profile step in a presidential primary process expected to stretch deep into next year. But there's possibility for Sanders in getting too aggressive with Biden , who remains broadly popular amongst Democrats.
    Hawks acquire Evan Turner from Portland in exchange for Kent Bazemore

    Hawks acquire Evan Turner from Portland in exchange for Kent Bazemore

    Turner , 30, averaged 6.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game in 73 games with Portland last season. Bazemore , 29, averaged 11.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 67 games.
    Lacking YouTuber Etika's body found

    Lacking YouTuber Etika's body found

    PewDiePie told his 17 million fans to seek help if they are struggling with mental illness after an emotional tribute to Etika . Hours later, a video was automatically posted on his YouTube account, and in it, he confessed to being depressed and suicidal.
  • Flights Booked For The Dominican Republic? You Might Want To Think Again

    Flights Booked For The Dominican Republic? You Might Want To Think Again

    FBN's Jeff Flock on reports of at least 11 tourist deaths in the Dominican Republic hurting tourism to the country. Autopsies found pulmonary edema, an accumulation of fluid in the lungs frequently caused by heart disease.
    Barcelona sign Valencia goalkeeper Neto

    Barcelona sign Valencia goalkeeper Neto

    Valencia have confirmed the signing of Dutch goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen from Barcelona for a fee of €35 million (£31.4/$39.8m). He made close to 150 appearances for the club over six seasons, winning three Eredivisie titles between 2012 and 2014.
    Viral video shows lucky catch of falling toddler in Istanbul

    Viral video shows lucky catch of falling toddler in Istanbul

    Shortly after he crossed the street, Doha tumbled out of the window - but luckily, she fell straight into the arms of the teenager.
  • Trump tweets may get slapped with Twitter's new warning label

    Trump tweets may get slapped with Twitter's new warning label

    The company will also essentially downvote these labeled tweets, making them less visible and, essentially, less popular. I guess the real point is to give Twitter something to point to when progressives complain about Trump's tweets .
    Second Florida city agrees to pay ransomware hackers massive sum

    Second Florida city agrees to pay ransomware hackers massive sum

    Lake City in Florida was targeted in what it has called a " triple threat " malware attack on June 10. The attackers demanded the ransom to be paid in Bitcoin, the world's oldest cryptocurrency.
    Trump to meet Xi, Putin at G20 in Japan

    Trump to meet Xi, Putin at G20 in Japan

    Cummings, a Democrat from Maryland, set a new deadline for the White House to comply with his request by July 8. The White House announced Mr Trump's schedule in Osaka, with Mr Morrison slated for a meeting.


Most liked

Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner to Wednesday at historic French chateau
Both of them twinned in balck, and Priyanka matched the red lining on Nick's clothes with her bright red lipstick. Meanwhile, Joe and Sophie were spotted leaving for their wedding destination in South France.

Apple Buys Self-Driving Car Startup Drive.ai
However, this present deal with Drive.ai has confirmed the continued interest of Apple in self-driving Cars software. The Silicon Valley-based company had been looking for a buyer since at least February.

Venezuela says it thwarted 'coup' bid
The effort failed to shift the military's allegiance and Guaido was backed by only around 30 military personnel. In his speech, Maduro briefly referred to an "Israeli group" he said was to carry out the killing.

NJ woman accused of stabbing identical twin sister to death
Not immediately clear is whether Amanda had been aware of her sister sharing the seemingly good spirited images on social media. Authorities responded to a call about an unconscious woman and arrived to find the victim lying on the ground.

NASA Releases Spectacular Photo of Erupting Volcano
The detailed photograph showed several phenomena which take place during the early stages of an eruption. The ring of clouds at the base of the plume appears to be water vapor, according to the space agency.

Asian shares rise on optimism around Trump-Xi meeting
Geng said he would like to tell the USA again that waging trade wars and ramping up tariffs would in no way solve the problems. The Trump-Xi meeting is undoubtedly the economic highlight of the summit, held in Osaka, Japan, on Friday and Saturday.

Harry Potter: Wizards Unite now available in 130 countries
Players can find a variety of Wizarding locations in the map as they set out on wizarding challenges and spell casting. Well, honestly, you'll earn the Wizards Unite treasure trunks by playing the game, pretty much.

WWE Announces Paul Heyman, Eric Bischoff To Run ‘RAW,’ ‘SmackDown’ Respectively
With Bischoff in charge, WCW's Nitro even defeated McMahon's Monday Night Raw in the television ratings for 83 consecutive weeks. He later went on to join WWE's own creative team, and can now be seen on screen as the advocate for Brock Lesnar.

Jordyn Woods REACTS to Khloe Kardashian claiming she never apologized to her
Jordyn Woods was asked about Khloe Kardashian's claim that she never apologized to her after the Tristan Thompson cheating scandal.

Google Maps will notify you if your vehicle goes off-route
Along with the mud, there were two areas in particular where the road had a deep ditch that was hard for cars to cross. A lot of vehicles were not able to drive through the muddy detour, and around 100 others got trapped behind them.

Media Flummoxed on Why Trump Rape Accusation Not Being Taken Seriously
More than a dozen women have accused Trump , 73, of making unwanted sexual advances in the years before he entered politics. She said, "I was not thrown on the ground and ravished, which the word rape carries so many sexual connotations".

Upcoming Microsoft Surface devices may use AMD or Qualcomm chips
Having said that, don't be surprised if Microsoft's next batch of Surface tablets and notebooks should be powered by AMD hardware. A new report surfaced today claiming that the Redmond-based tech giant is now working on two new Surface models.

YouTube homepage update gives users more control over video recommendations
The third announcement is related to giving watchers more control over the kinds of recommendations they see . The reason behind these new features The goal is to give users more control over their feed.

Barcelona VP: Neymar eager to return but we don't want him
He and many more want to play for Barcelona . "But it's true that Neymar wants to go back to Barcelona ". One player who will be turning out for Barcelona next season is Neymar's compatriot Neto .

India can demoralise World Cup opponents, says Srikkanth
India hammered Pakistan by 89 runs (D/L method) in a one-sided, rain interrupted tie on Sunday. Every Indian is feeling proud and celebrating this impressive win.