The United States Space Agency NASA has announced an its plan to send a drone to Titan. Titan is Saturn’s largest moon and is considered to be a richly organic world of its own.
Nasa said that the Dragonfly mission is part of their quest to search for building blocks of life and will aim to collect samples and examine sites around Saturn’s icy moon.
The Dragonfly drone will be launched in 2026 and arrive at its destination in 2034. In a statement, Nasa said, “The rotorcraft will fly to dozens of promising locations on Titan looking for prebiotic chemical processes common on both Titan and Earth.”
It is the first time that Nasa will fly a multirotor vehicle on another planet. Dragonfly has eight rotors and flies like a large drone. Titan’s dense atmosphere, which is four times denser than Earth’s atmosphere, will be favourable for Dragonfly to fly its payload to new places and access surface materials multiple times.
Titan is larger than the planet Mercury and is the second largest moon in our solar system.
As it orbits Saturn, it is about 886 million miles (1.4 billion km) away from the Sun, about 10 times farther than Earth. Because it is so far from the Sun, its surface temperature is around -290 degrees Fahrenheit (-179 degrees Celsius). Its surface pressure is also 50 per cent higher than Earth’s.
Nasa says that Titan is similar to the Earth in earlier times and can provide clues to how life may have arisen on our planet.
In a video shared by Nasa, an animated trajectory of Dragonfly has been shown. It further shows Dragonfly drone detaching from a parachute and landing on the sandy surface of Titan. In the background, structures resembling sand dunes can be seen. The video also demonstrates Dragonfly drone starting its rotors and flying parallel to the surface of Titan.
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 is equipped with instruments capable of studying how far Titan’s prebiotic chemistry may have progressed. The drone also will investigate Titan’s atmospheric and surface properties and its subsurface ocean and liquid reservoirs. Along with that, Dragonfly’s instruments will search for chemical evidence of past or extant life.
Titan has a nitrogen-based atmosphere like Earth. What makes it different from the Earth is that Titan has clouds and rain of methane. Other organics are formed in the atmosphere and fall like light snow. Titan’s weather and surface processes have combined complex organics, energy, and water which is similar to those that may have led to life on our planet.
Source : Various