NASA Plans Drone Flights On Saturn Moon Titan

 - July 1, 2019, 9:06 AM

NASA plans to fly a drone on the surface of Saturn moon Titan beginning in 2034. The eight-rotor Dragonfly lander will traverse through Titan’s dense—four times that of Earth’s—atmosphere carrying a scientific payload designed to detect prebiotic chemistry.

“With the Dragonfly mission, NASA will once again do what no one else can do,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Visiting this mysterious ocean world could revolutionize what we know about life in the universe. This cutting-edge mission would have been unthinkable even just a few years ago, but we’re now ready for Dragonfly’s amazing flight.”

Slated to launch in 2026, Dragonfly will land in the equatorial “Shangri-La” dune fields, explore the region in short flights, and building up to a series of longer “leapfrog” flights of up to five miles, stopping along the way to take surface samples. It will finally reach the Selk impact crater, where there is evidence of past liquid water. The lander will eventually fly more than 108 miles—nearly double the distance traveled to date by all the Mars rovers combined.

Titan is larger than the planet Mercury and is 10 times farther from the sun than Earth. Its surface temperature is around -290 degrees Fahrenheit and its surface pressure is also 50 percent higher than Earth’s.