NASA will send a flying Dragonfly rover to Titan

Source: NASA   NASA announced its new space mission. The agency plans to explore Titan, Saturn’s largest satellite, with the help of the flying Dragonfly rover. Dragonfly will go to Titan in 2026 and land in 2034. The device is an Octocopter – drone with four double screws. This type of rover has never landed outside the Earth.   “The device will fly to dozens of places on Titan in search of chemical elements and processes that are common both on Titan and on Earth. Titan is an analogue of the Earth at the earliest stage of its development and can give a hint about how life could appear on our planet, ”NASA said in a press release. Dragonfly’s mission will last 2.7 years. During this time, the rover will explore the various environments of the satellite of Saturn – from the dunes to the bottom of the impact crater. His tools will study the atmospheric and surface properties of Titan, as well as its underground cavities. One of the main objectives of the mission – the search for evidence of past or existing life.   NASA used data from the Cassini automatic interplanetary station, accumulated over 13 years to prepare for the mission, to select the appropriate time for landing. In addition, the landing site and the first interesting goals for science have already been determined. The rover will land at the equator of Titan, on the “Shangri-La” dune fields, which are very similar to the dunes in Namibia in southern Africa, and will take several samples from them. Dragonfly will explore this region on short flights up to 8 kilometers, stopping along the way to take samples. Finally, according to the plans of scientists, he will reach the impact crater Selk, at the bottom of which there must be water and various organic substances that can become evidence of the existence of life on the satellite.   During the mission, Dragonfly will fly about 175 kilometers. The power supply of the drone will be supported by RTGs (radioisotope thermoelectric generators), which can produce electricity through the decay of isotopes. “It is easier to fly on Titan than on Earth,” states mission head Elizabeth Turtle from Johns Hopkins University. – The atmosphere of the satellite is four times denser than on Earth, and the force of gravity is one-seventh of the earth’s. This is the best way to travel long distances. ”   By the way, initially, in addition to Titan, NASA considered another potential object for research – comet 67P / Churyumov — Gerasimenko. Previously, it was already visited by the European Rosette spacecraft, but the new mission would return to Earth with samples of cometary material.   The budget of the Dragonfly mission will be limited to a billion dollars. This is the fourth mission of the New Frontiers program after the mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt, the mission to Jupiter, and the OSIRIS-REx mission that explores the asteroid Bennu.