NASA’s Nuclear Drone Will Search For Life on Titan





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Published on Aug 12, 2019

As a part of NASA's New Frontiers mission, the Dragonfly drone will explore the terrain of Saturn's moon, Titan, in search of key ingredients for life.
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NASA’s next solar system exploration mission will send a drone-like rotorcraft, called the Dragonfly drone, to Saturn’s largest moon, Titan.

The Dragonfly team won NASA’s New Frontiers competition, the same program that the New Horizons spacecraft participated in. NASA considers this competition a representation of the critical step in the advancement of solar system and space exploration.

The Dragonfly mission is led by a team out of John Hopkins University, but it was an international collaboration to get the unique duel quadcopter design.The spacecraft is expected to touch down in 2034 in the moon’s dune fields and then fly to dozens of different locations.

Once on the ground, the Dragonfly drone will use various instruments to identify the terrain’s chemical composition, listen for Titanquakes, monitor atmospheric conditions, and more.

Dragonfly’s ultimate destination is the Selk impact crater, where there’s evidence of past liquid water and complex organic molecules.

The nuclear drone is expected to launch in 2026. Learn more about the Dragonfly nuclear drone, the Dragonfly mission, and what scientists hope to find on Saturn’s moon, Titan, in this episode of Countdown To Launch.

NASA’s Crazy Plan to Send a Space Submarine to Titan

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NASA drone will soar over Saturn's largest moon
"The nuclear-powered Dragonfly can fly tens of kilometres in less than an hour, allowing it to cover ground much faster than a wheeled rover could. Over the course of a two-year mission, the drone could traverse hundreds of kilometres."

"Titan has clouds, rain, rivers, lakes and seas of liquid hydrocarbons like methane and ethane. The largest seas are hundreds of feet deep and hundreds of miles wide. Beneath Titan’s thick crust of water ice is more liquid—an ocean primarily of water rather than methane."

"ESA's Huygen's probe was designed to study the smog-like atmosphere of Saturn's largest moon Titan as it parachuted to the surface. It also carried cameras to photograph the moon's surface. Huygen's traveled to Saturn aboard NASA's Cassini orbiter."


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