‘Dragonfly’ drone to search for ‘building blocks of life’ on Titan

NASA is sending a rotorcraft to Saturn’s ice moon Titan to continue its search for the “building blocks of life”.

The new mission could “revolutionise what we know about life in the universe”, the US space agency said.

The Dragonfly has eight rotors and “flies like a large drone”.

NASA Dragonfly. Pic: NASA
Image: The Dragonfly will set off in 2026. Pic: NASA

It will take off on “multiple sorties” and “examine sites around Saturn’s icy moon”. It is due to launch in 2026.and arrive in 2034.

Titan is considered important because it is thought to be an “analogue to the very early Earth”, NASA added. It may therefore give clues about how life arose here.

One of the Dragonfly’s tasks will be to look for prebiotic chemical processes common on both Titan and Earth.

There are differences, though. Titan’s atmosphere is four times denser than Earth’s. And while Titan’s atmosphere is nitrogen-based, like that on Earth, it has clouds and rain of methane.

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In its orbit around Saturn, it is about 886 million miles away from the Sun, about 10 times farther than Earth.

That makes its surface temperature very cold, around -290F (-179C)

NASA dragonfly. Pic: NASA
Image: The Dragonfly will fly ‘multiple sorties’. Pic: NASA
NASA Dragonfly. Pic: NASA
Image: The Dragonfly has eight rotors. Pic: NASA

NASA said the Dragonfly would “explore diverse environments from organic dunes to the floor of an impact crater”.

Titan’s subsurface ocean and liquid reservoirs will also be examined, and instruments will search for “chemical evidence of past or extant life”.

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said visiting Titan’s “mysterious ocean world could revolutionise what we know about life in the universe”.

He added the “cutting-edge mission would have been unthinkable even just a few years ago”.

Source: SKY NEWS

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