The Scientist Team Wants to Land Drones in Saturn's Biggest Moon



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Close-Up Views

We got the best glimpse of Saturn's biggest moon Titan when a Huygen investigation from the European Space Agency was successfully lowered on the surface by NASA's Cassini spacecraft on January 14, 2005 – the furthest landing from Earth's spacecraft. But the probe ran out of battery in just a few hours.

Dragonfly Mission

A team of scientists at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory had itchy to return to the blurred moon of Saturn. But this time, instead of sending a stationary probe, the team wanted to send a drone that could explore the moon from above its surface – but far below its thick, nitrogen-rich atmosphere.

"We didn't know how Titan worked as a system before Cassini arrived there. We had tempting instructions, but Cassini and Huygens really took it [being] this mysterious month for [being] a very familiar place, "principal investigator for Dragonfly and scientist at Johns Hopkins University Elizabeth Turtle said Space.com.

The mission called Dragonfly can finally explore the most promising sites, and potentially be inhabited on Titan. Scientists plan to take advantage of low-moon gravity, and a thick atmosphere to visit several places with drones.

Crossing fingers

And the proposed mission might actually be formed – that is, if NASA chose it for a different finalist proposal later this year. NASA selected two finalist concepts including Dragonfly for the mission in the next mid-2020 in December 2017.

The team behind Dragonfly submitted a more detailed concept in December last year, and expected a decision from NASA in the summer, Space.com report. If chosen this year, Dragonfly's mission will be launched around 2025 to arrive on Titan nine years later.

And they are full of hope. "Not only is this a very interesting concept with extraordinary, interesting science, but also, it can be done – it's feasible from a technical point of view," Melissa Trainer, Dragonfly's chief investigator, and scientists at NASA told Space.com.

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