Before heading into this past weekend, NASA posted a new video on June 27th that announced its newest exploratory mission. The Dragonfly mission will send a lone drone to explore Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. The Dragonfly will launch in 2026 and will take 8 years to arrive at its destination. Its primary goal: search for signs of life.
Details of the Dragonfly Mission
After it’s arrival in 2034, the large eight-rotor drone will travel to dozens of locations along the surface of Titan looking for prebiotic chemicals that are similar to Earth. Since the Titan moon is very similar to early Earth, the information that the Dragonfly drone gathers can help researchers understand how life began on the planet.
Back in September of 2017, the Cassini spacecraft finalized its 13-year exploratory journey of Saturn as it disappeared into the planet’s atmosphere. This treasure of data was used by the leaders of the Dragonfly mission to determine the best location and period to land the drone in order to maximize its success.
The drone’s first stop will be at the “Shangri-La” dune fields. These dunes are very similar to the ones in Namibia, Africa and provide a suitable condition for sampling. Along the path to its final destination, the drone will make pit stops at various geographical locations that mirror conditions on Earth.
The Dragonfly’s final stop will be at the Selk impact crater. NASA hopes to locate documented evidence of liquid water, complex molecules, and energy—the basic ingredients for the beginning of life. At the conclusion of its two and a half year mission, the Dragonfly will have flown 108 miles.
The New Frontier Program
The Dragonfly mission is a part of NASA’s New Frontier’s program. According to the website, the program’s strategy is “to explore the solar system with medium-class spacecraft missions that conduct high-science-return planetary investigations that add to our understanding of the solar system.”
Dragonfly is the fourth mission in this program joining Juno, New Horizons, and Osiris-Rex. These missions are integral to NASA’s initiative to understand as much of the solar system as possible in order to learn more about the origins of life.
Currently, Earth is the only planet that contains intelligent life. The questions of how, why, where, and when motivate these missions. The more knowledge and information that can be gathered, the greater chance researchers and scientists have at answering these questions.
The Answers Are Out There
NASA has helped the United States propel itself as one of the leaders in space exploration. Missions like Dragonfly will allow the U.S. to make discoveries that will help sustain humanity for years to come. America continues to innovate and take giant steps forward in unveiling the mysteries of life.
The more that’s understood about the origins of life and how everything began, the better mankind will be positioned to evolve—to be more influential. The answers are out there, and with each newly launched mission, the U.S. gets closer and closer to finding them. The great Space Race has only just begun!