UNITED STATES—On Thursday, June 27, NASA announced that it’s dispatching a drone named Dragonfly to examine Titan, Saturn’s largest moon. With the help of propellers, Dragonfly will fly and land on various areas on the icy moon to analyze if it can assist microbial life.
The nuclear-powered expedition is part of NASA’s New Frontiers program, which lofted the New Horizons spacecraft that developed into the first to tour Pluto.
The drone won over almost a dozen proposed projects, as well as a mission to gather samples from a nearby comet. Dragonfly is set to launch in 2026 and land in Titan in 2034. The idea is to arrive on Titan’s dune and on a crater following the landing. The cost for the development of the mission is crowned at approximately $850 million.
According to NASA, “During its 2.7-year baseline mission, Dragonfly will explore diverse environments from organic dunes to the floor of an impact crater where liquid water and complex organic materials key to life once existed together for possibly tens of thousands of years.”
“Dragonfly marks the first time NASA will fly a multi-rotor vehicle for science on another planet; it has eight rotors and flies like a large drone,” said NASA in a news letter.
“With the Dragonfly mission, NASA will once again do what no one else can do,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.
Titan was last analyzed by the international Cassini- Huygen mission in 2017. The spacecraft flew into Saturn, terminating 20 years of exploration.