The Agency plans to send a drone helicopter the moon to search for the building blocks of life. Despite its unique ability to fly, Dragonfly would spend most of its time on Titan's surface making science measurements.
"This ocean world is the only moon in our solar system with a dense atmosphere & we're so excited to see what Dragonfly discovers", NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a tweet on Thursday. During its mission, the spacecraft will explore various areas, from the moon's organic dunes to the impact craters where water and other organic materials gather.
NASA continued: "Its instruments will study how far prebiotic chemistry may have progressed". "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 awesome flight". It will first land at the equatorial "Shangri-La" dune fields, which are terrestrially similar to the linear dunes in Namibia in southern Africa and offer a diverse sampling location.
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Titan is Saturn's largest moon and, of the over 150 known moons in our solar system, is the only one with a substantial atmosphere.
Utilizing 13 years' of the Cassini spacecraft's data on Titan, the Dragonfly rotorcraft-lander will reportedly take "advantage of Titan's dense atmosphere and low gravity" and conduct a series of short flights around the Saturn moon to collect relevant samples. All in all, the lander will eventually fly more than 108 miles (175 kilometers). "It's remarkable to think of this rotorcraft flying miles across the organic sand dunes of Saturn's largest moon, exploring the processes that shape this extraordinary environment", Zurbunchen said.
"We want to do something bold and take measured risks", Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA Chief of Science said after the announcement.
While Titan is icy it is also similar to Earth in a number of ways. It also has methane rain. Due to its distance from the Sun (about 1,435 million kilometres), it is very cold, with surface temperature of about -179 degrees Celsius.
Dragonfly was one of two finalists being considered for the New Frontiers program, a source of funding for space probes with groundbreaking scientific missions. Dragonfly is led by Principal Investigator Elizabeth Turtle, who is based at Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. For a long time it was unclear exactly which mission the space agency would announce. However, the presence of microbial life could shed light on the evolution of life on Earth.