NASA goes to Titan: Space agency unveils Dragonfly mission to explore the surface of Saturn's largest moon in search of clues about the origins of life in our solar system
- NASA has announced Dragonfly as the next mission in its New Frontiers program
- It is set to launch in 2026 and arrive in Titan, the largest moon of Saturn, in 2034
NASA has announced a plan to explore the surface of Saturn's largest moon, Titan.
The space agency announced the announcement in a media teleconference on Thursday afternoon, which set out its vision of a robot rotor named Dragonfly that collects samples and measures soil composition in search of signs of habitability.
The huge, icy moon is said to be the most earth-like world in the solar system, and previous Cassini mission findings suggest that it contains some of the primitive ingredients needed for life to come into existence.
Dragonfly will be launched in 2026 as part of NASA & # 39; s New Frontiers program and is expected to arrive at Titan in 2034.
NASA has announced a plan to explore the surface of Saturn's largest moon, Titan. The space agency announced the announcement during a teleconference in the media on Thursday afternoon, describing the vision of a robot rotor named Dragonfly (artist depicted)
CAN PRIMITIVE LIFE exist on TITAN?
Using data collected when Cassini flew through the upper atmosphere of Titan, about 950-1300 km (590-807 miles) above the surface, researchers have identified what is known as & # 39; carbon chain anions & # 39 ;.
It is thought that these are the building blocks of more complex connections that make life possible.
Researchers say that the data from Cassini & # 39; s plasma spectrometer (CAPS) the carbon columns with & # 39; sown & # 39; larger molecules at Titan suggest, because they seem to sink closer to the moon, while precursors of larger aerosols underwent rapid growth.
The discovery not only suggests that Titan may contain molecules that stimulate prebiotic chemistry, but it could also help to explain how life originated on Earth, according to ESA.
& # 39; Dragonfly is a daring, groundbreaking way to explore the solar system & # 39 ;, said APL Director Ralph Semmel.
& # 39; This mission is a visionary combination of creativity and technical risk taking that will help us to unravel some of the most critical mysteries of the universe – possibly including the keys to our origins.
& # 39; We are honored that NASA APL and our partners have entrusted this great opportunity and responsibility. & # 39;
Initially, Dragonfly will carry out a 2.7-year mission to explore various locations in Titan, including dunes and impact craters.
Observations from the Cassini mission indicate that these areas once had liquid water and complex organic materials.
The double quadcopter will sample these organic surface materials and measure their composition to characterize the habitability of the big moon.
Dragonfly will first land in an equatorial area known as the & # 39; Shangri-La & # 39; dune fields, which are compared to the Namibian dunes in southern Africa.
Then & # 39; leapfrog & # 39; flights of approximately 8 km (5 miles) each are run to jump to other areas and stop taking samples from each site.
Dragonfly will eventually find its way to the Selk impact crater, where scientists have found evidence of the latest liquid water, organic (carbon-containing) molecules and energy.
Together these are the building blocks for life.
& # 39; Titan is such a fantastic & complex destination & # 39 ;, said Elizabeth & # 39; Zibi & # 39; Turtle, APL's Dragonfly principal investigator.
& # 39; We do not know the steps that have been taken on earth to move from chemistry to biology, but we do know that much of that prebiotic chemistry is happening at Titan today.
& # 39; We are more than excited about the opportunity to discover and see what awaits us in this exotic world. & # 39;
Titan is the largest of the 62 moons of Saturn and is 886 million miles (1.4 billion kilometers) from the sun.
This distance means that the surface temperatures are ice cold – according to NASA the surface temperature of Titan is approximately minus 290 degrees Fahrenheit (-179 degrees Celsius).
The surface pressure is much higher than we are used to, about 50 percent higher than that of the earth.
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