NASA sets its sights on Saturn’s largest moon

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This artist’s rendering made available by NASA shows multiple views of the Dragonfly dual-quadcopter lander that would take advantage of the atmosphere on Saturn’s moon Titan to explore multiple locations, some hundreds of miles apart. On Thursday, June 2u7, 2019, NASA announced it would send the drone to the jovian planet’s largest moon. Scientists have long considered Titan an attractive place to study whether it would be capable of supporting microbial life. (NASA via AP)

(AP-US-SCI-Saturn-Moon-Mission) – NASA is getting ready to send a robotic dragonfly to an alien world.

NASA’s drone, titled “Dragonfly,” is set to explore Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. Using propellers, the drone will fly and land on several locations across the icy moon to study whether it can support microbial life.

“What really excites me about this mission is that Titan has all the ingredients needed for life,” said Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s planetary science division.

The proposed Dragonfly drone beat out nearly a dozen other proposed projects, including a mission to collect samples from a nearby comet. Launch of the drone is slated for 2026 and is expected to arrive on Titan in 2034. NASA plans to land the Dragonfly on some of Titan’s dunes and later on a crater.

Titan has lakes of methane, mountains of ice, and an ocean below the surface. It posses a thick atmosphere covered in haze. Scientists are attracted to this alien world and are eager explore if this moon has the environment to support primitive life.

“We are absolutely thrilled, and everyone is just raring to go and take the next steps in exploring Titan,” said project leader Elizabeth Turtle of Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland.

Titan was last studied by the international Cassini-Huygens mission. In 2017, the Cassini spacecraft plunged into Saturn, ending two decades of exploration.

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