A new mission with a drone-like lander will explore the surface of Saturn's moon Titan. The mission – called Dragonfly – received a coveted funding slot from NASA & # 39; s New Frontiers program, which finances ambitious missions to investigate objects in our solar system.
The Dragonfly mission drives a dual quadcopter off the surface Titan. It will look like a drone, with eight rotors that help it fly over the surface of the moon for tens of kilometers at the same time in less than an hour. He makes one of these & # 39; hops & # 39; about every 16 days, and spends a lot of time sampling the surface and observing the weather. The mission is led by Elizabeth Turtle of Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.
Dragonfly was one of the two finalists who were eligible for the New Frontiers prize. The other, CAESAR, led by Steve Squyres at Cornell University, would aim to grab a part of the surface of a comet and bring it back to Earth.
The two missions had already gone through different competition rounds before the final decision of New Frontiers missions generally cost about $ 850 million to develop, making them slightly more expensive than the agency. Discovery missions, such as the Mars InSight lander, whatever the cost around $ 814 millionor the Dawn spacecraft that cost $ 500 million.
Only three other missions have been funded through the New Frontiers program. The Juno spacecraft, orbiting around Jupiter, observes the swirling atmosphere and the magnetic field of the giant planet. New Horizons were followed by Pluto in 2015 and flew in December 2018 with a Kuiper Belt object. And OSIRIS-REX, an asteroid sampling mission, is currently located around the Bennu asteroid, looking for a safe place to grab a sample next year.
Like those missions, Dragonfly is expected to expand our view of distant objects in the solar system – in this case, Saturn Moon has Titan, whose bizarre chemistry and thick atmosphere have intrigued scientists for years. (It is the only moon in our system that can boast a substantial atmosphere.) The Huygens probe, worn by Cassini, gave us a first glimpse of the moon's surface. Then Cassini himself revealed that Titan had lakes of liquid methane on the surface – making it the only other body in our solar system that is also liquid in addition to the earth. Dragonfly's ability to travel across the surface will allow researchers to visit various interesting sites during the planned two-year mission, possibly traveling hundreds of miles during that time.
The development of …