NASA’s Dragonfly to land 800 million miles away and fly through the atmosphere of Saturn’s moon Titan

Sharing is caring!

NASA is preparing for a mission that sounds like something straight out of a sci-fi movie. Dragonfly’s mission is to explore Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, which is believed to hold clues to how life formed on Earth.

The mission’s date was pushed back for a year

The launch date for the Dragonfly mission is set for July 2028. Initially, it was supposed to start in 2027 and was expected to land in the mid-2030s, but it was pushed back a year.

The car-sized craft nuclear-powered rotorcraft drone will land on Titan, “a world planetary scientists believe is rich in organic molecules.” In a press release, NASA said, “Titan is an analog to the very early Earth and can provide clues to how life may have arisen on our planet.”

Dragonfly will collect samples, and the team behind it is in the last stages of development as NASA Science Mission Directorate associate administrator Nicola Fox shared, “The Dragonfly team has successfully overcome a number of technical and programmatic challenges in this daring endeavor to gather new science on Titan.” He added, “I am proud of this team and their ability to keep all aspects of the mission moving.”

Unique chemistry

Titan was chosen because “this is the only place in the solar system that has this kind of chemistry,” explained to Mashable Elizabeth “Zibi” Turtle, a planetary scientist at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and the mission’s principal investigator.

Titan’s dunes are covered with ice crusts. The Physics Laboratory, which often works with NASA, wondered how it could connect with the early life on the Earth, “Organic molecules are the building blocks for life, and their presence on Titan adds to its intrigue – what compounds are on Titan, and what might they form?”

Dragonfly will also likely be able to answer if Titan could host living organisms and search for possible proof of life.

Big expectations and extreme cold

The spacecraft will have its final testing before launching in a Titan Chamber, built to simulate the conditions Dragonfly will face in space, around some 800 million miles away from home.

The $850 million spacecraft proved valuable since the cameras were tested on Mars rovers. The spacecraft’s “Gamma-ray and Neutron Spectrometer” was used in missions to Mars, Mercury, the moon, and different asteroids.

This is a never-before-seen mission, with Dragonfly flying to temperatures below -290 Fahrenheit. Turtle said, “It’s almost unimaginably cold.” However, the scientist added, “It’s clearly a bold mission architecture,” yet “most of the technologies already exist.”