NASA has announced a plan to explore the surface of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan.
The space agency made the announcement in a media teleconference Thursday afternoon, detailing its vision of a robotic rotorcraft dubbed Dragonfly that will collect samples and measure soil composition in search for signs of habitability.
The enormous, icy moon is said to be the most Earth-like world in the solar system, and previous findings by the Cassini mission suggest it holds some of the ingredients necessary for the emergence of life.
Dragonfly will launch in 2026 as part of NASA’s New Frontiers program, and is expected to arrive at Titan in 2034.
NASA has announced a plan to explore the surface of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. The space agency made the announcement in a media teleconference Thursday afternoon, detailing its vision of a robotic rotorcraft dubbed Dragonfly (artist’s impression pictured)
COULD PRIMITIVE LIFE EXIST ON TITAN?
Using data collected as Cassini flew through Titan’s upper atmosphere, at about 950–1300 km (590-807 miles) above the surface, researchers have identified what are known as ‘carbon chain anions.’
These are thought to be the building blocks of more the more complex compounds that make life possible.
Researchers say the data from Cassini’s plasma spectrometer (CAPS), suggest the carbon chains ‘seeded’ larger molecules at Titan, as they were found to dwindle closer to the moon, while precursors to larger aerosols underwent rapid growth.
Not only does the discovery suggest Titan may contain molecules that drive prebiotic chemistry, but it could also help to explain how life sprung up on Earth, according to ESA.
‘Dragonfly is a bold, game-changing way to explore the solar system,’ said APL Director Ralph Semmel.
‘This mission is a visionary combination of creativity and technical risk-taking that will help us unravel some of the most critical mysteries of the universe — including, possibly, the keys to our origins.’