Friday, 23 August, 2019

Drone helicopter to fly on Saturn moon

NASA unveils new mission to fly to Saturn's moon, Titan, which could be home to alien life Dragonfly: NASA's New Mission to Explore Saturn's Moon Titan
Sandra Phillips | 29 June, 2019, 04:45

NASA unveiled the latest mission in its New Frontiers program, exploring Saturn's largest moon, Titan, which could potentially host extraterrestrial life. According to NASA's announcement, Dragonfly will perform plenty of flybys and examine different locations on Titan which could support chemical processes that are also common on Earth. 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.

Dragonfly will launch in 2026 and arrive in 2034.

Titan is a haze-covered world with a thick atmosphere.

Scientists say Titan is easily comparable to early conditions on Earth and could provide an idea of how life as we know it on Earth came into existence. "Titan is just a ideal chemical laboratory to understand pre-biotic chemistry".

Saturn's largest moon, Titan, has been selected as the destination for NASA's next exploratory mission within the solar system, according to a NASA official who notes the body could reveal the secrets of early or even current alien life forms due to its liquid methane seas, lakes and rivers.

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By the end of the mission, the Dragonfly craft will have traveled "more than 108 miles" which NASA said was "nearly double the distance traveled to date by all the Mars rovers combined".

Dragonfly will first land at the "Shangri-La" dune fields, which are similar to the linear dunes found in Namibia in southern Africa. A series of flights 5 miles- (8 kilometer)-long are also planned after that, to get the drone to various points of interest around Titan. "Visiting this mysterious ocean world could revolutionize what we know about life in the universe", said NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine.

"It's remarkable to think of this rotorcraft flying miles and miles across the organic sand dunes of Saturn's largest moon, exploring the processes that shape this extraordinary environment", Zurbuchen said.

"Titan has a nitrogen-based atmosphere like Earth". Unlike Earth, Titan has clouds and rain of methane. Among its missions will be to explore the moon's organic surface materials to test the habitability of its environment. 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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