NASA will fly a drone to Titan to search for life
For its next mission in our solar system, NASA plans to fly a drone helicopter to Saturn’s biggest moon Titan looking for the building blocks of life, the space agency said on Thursday.
The Dragonfly mission, which will launch in 2026 and land in 2034, will send a rotorcraft to travel to many locations over the icy moon, which has a considerable atmosphere and is seen by scientists as a likeness all around early-time Earth.
It is the only celestial body other than our planet known to have liquid rivers, lakes and oceans on its surface, however these contain hydrocarbons like methane and ethane, not water.
“Visiting this mysterious ocean world could revolutionise what we know about life in the universe, ” said NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine.
“This cutting-edge mission would have been unthinkable even just a few years ago, but we’re now ready for Dragonfly’s amazing flight.”
NASA said the vehicle would have eight rotors and fly like a large drone.
“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,” NASA said in a statement.
“Its instruments will study how far prebiotic chemistry may have progressed. They also will investigate the moon’s atmospheric and surface properties and its subsurface ocean and liquid reservoirs.
“Additionally, instruments will search for chemical evidence of past or extant life.”
The craft will arrive first at the central Shangri-La rise, exploring the locale in short treks before building up to longer jump flights of 8km.
It will stop along convincing regions to gather tests before at long last achieving the moon’s Selk sway cavity, where there is proof of past fluid water, natural materials and vitality: a potential primordial stew.
The expectation is the lander will in the long run fly more than 175km.
Titan’s climate is made for the most part of nitrogen, as Earth’s, yet is multiple times denser. Its mists and rains are methane.
The second-biggest moon in the solar system, Titan has a thick water ice crust, beneath which is an ocean made primarily of water.
The underground ocean could harbor life as we know it, while the hydrocarbon lakes and seas on the moon’s surface could contain life forms that rely on different chemistries – or the body could be lifeless.
Titan is about 1.4 billion kilometers from the Sun, with surface temperatures of around -290 degrees Fahrenheit (-179 degrees Celsius) and surface pressure about 50 percent higher than Earth.