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Friday, July 10, 2020

NASA to turn to Saturn’s largest moon Titan in search of life


NASA to turn to Saturn’s largest moon, in search of life. It has confirmed Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, to find signs of life. The space agency plans to launch a rotor-craft to explore and study the icy moon as well as its thick atmosphere.

The mission, dubbed Dragonfly, would mark the first time a multi-rotor drone would fly on a different celestial body. The dragonfly is  a large vehicle with eight rotors, it will begin its eight-year-long journey to Titan in 2026 and would reach the icy world in 2034. It will fly towards different sites to explore Moon’s environment and conduct scientific experiments.

The tests would be aimed at finding ancient/extant microbial life or chemical processes that ultimately led to the emergence of life on Earth. Titan is similar to Earth in many ways. Titan’s atmosphere is made up largely from Nitrogen, just like Earth’s atmosphere, and is thick enough to allow the rotor-craft to cover 180 kilometers in nearly three years. It is well known that the weather and surface of the moon have elements – complex organics, energy, and liquid water – that sparked microbial life on Earth billions of years ago.

The Dragonfly will first conduct short flights to study dune fields that are terrestrially similar to the linear dunes in Namibia; it will take samples from this region. Then, it will head to the surface of an impact crater, dubbed Selk, to study how the interaction between water, complex organic molecules that existed there for tens of thousands of years may have progressed.

In addition to this, the rotor-craft will drill into the surface of Titan to conduct chemical analysis of its subsurface ocean, liquid reservoirs. “Visiting this mysterious ocean world could revolutionize what we know about life in the universe. 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 Administrator Jim Bridenstine said.

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