NASA to send flying robot to explore Saturn's moon Titan

This artist’s rendering made available by NASA shows multiple views of the Dragonfly dual-quadcopter lander

But one place that not many people talk about contains methane in such abundance that it rains liquid methane.

The average temperature of -179C (-290F) means that mountains are made of ice, and liquid methane assumes numerous roles played by water on Earth.

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. Making multiple flights, the Dragonfly dual-quadcopter will explore a variety of locations on Saturn's moon Titan.

"Today I am proud to announce that our next New Frontiers mission, Dragonfly, will explore Saturn's largest moon, Titan", Jim Bridenstine, NASA administrator said during a teleconference.

"With the Dragonfly mission, Nasa will once again do what no-one else can do", said the USA space agency's administrator, Jim Bridenstine.


Dragonfly was selected as part of the agency's New Frontiers program, which includes the New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt, Juno to Jupiter, and OSIRIS-REx to the asteroid Bennu. This program supports missions that have been identified as top solar system exploration priorities by the planetary community. "Now we can add Titan to the list of enigmatic worlds NASA will explore". 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.

The Titan satellite, which is as big as Mercury, gathers a series of compounds that make it similar to the planet Earth in its "primitive" phase, that is, in its first phases of existence. This area is terrestrially similar to the dunes in Namibia in southern Africa. It will continue to "leapfrog" along until it reaches the Selk impact crater.

Dragonfly took advantage of 13 years' worth of Cassini data to choose a calm weather period to land, along with a safe initial landing site and scientifically interesting targets. Because of its thick, nitrogen-based atmosphere and possible layer of liquid water ocean beneath its surface, the moon is thought to be the most Earth-like world in the solar system and one of the best candidates for alien life.

Titan's atmosphere is four times as dense as Earth's, with NASA likening it to that of early Earth.

NASA said the vehicle would have eight rotors and fly like a large drone. The goal is to send the nuclear-powered drone to investigate dozens of locations across Titan, which scientists have long theorized may harbor an environment to sustain organic life. Planetary missions developed by NASA's New Frontiers program are considered mid-tier, meaning they are capped at $1 billion and therefore less expensive than the agency's multibillion-dollar "flagship" missions, like the $2.5 billion Curiosity Mars rover - though more expensive than the agency's "Discovery" missions - like the Mars InSight lander now exploring Mars, which cost roughly $850 million, or the Dawn spacecraft orbiting the dwarf planet Ceres, which cost $500 million.

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