NASA mission to Saturn's moon Titan with its Dragonfly drone will cost $1 billion

The dragonfly drone is as big as a land mower and it is built to last its mission life 2.7 years.


NASA has announced that it is going to Saturn’s moon Titan.

The mission is called Dragonfly and it is slated to launch in 2026 and will arrive at the moon on 2034. This will be the first time that NASA will fly a rotorcraft that is similar to a large drone or a lawnmower. Titan’s atmosphere is denser than that of Earth’s and NASA aims to take advantage of it to be the first agency to fly its payloads to new sites to conduct their experiments. The craft will conduct its exploration in short flight increasing the length to 8 km. NASA has described the flight as "leapfrog" (short flights of up to 8 kilometres).

NASA mission to Saturns moon Titan with its Dragonfly drone will cost <img class=

This illustration shows NASA’s Dragonfly rotorcraft-lander approaching a site on Saturn’s exotic moon, Titan. Image credit: NASA

The atmosphere is not the only bit that has similarities to Earth’s even though Titan's atmosphere is mostly made up of nitrogen. Titan also has liquid rivers and seas that are hundreds of feet deep. Its seas are largely made up of methane and ethane and Dragonfly will study it.

It is built to last its mission life of 2.7 years, is 3-meter long and will travel 175 km. Dragonfly will explore different parts of Titan’s environment and search for evidence of past life on the Moon. It will look at organic dunes, an impact crater which has liquid water and how far prebiotic chemistry may have progressed. It will be helped by the data that Cassini has collected over its mission span of 13 years.

Dragonfly will land during a calm period on the Moon, in a dune field Shangri-La which is similar to the dune in Namibia in South Africa. The total cost of this mission will be $1 billion, according to Space.com.

This will be NASA's second planned rotorcraft mission. The first is the Mars helicopter test vehicle which will be part of the Mars 2020 Rover mission that is scheduled to launch in July 2020 and arrive in February 2021. The helicopter will be stored in the belly rover and weighs approximately 1.8 kilograms. This will be the first vehicle in history to attempt to establish the viability of heavier-than-air vehicles flying on another planet, NASA said in a press release.

The selection process started in 2017 and the Titan mission was selected from a long list of contenders. It is part of NASA’s New Frontiers program that includes the mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt, Jupiter and asteroid Bennu.

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