NASA's Dragonfly Mission to Titan in search of origins and signs of life
Why in News?
NASA has informed that the next destination for research would be the moon of Saturn, Titan. It is a richly organic world. Dragonfly would be going to Titan in search of origins of life on Earth. Take a look at the details of Mission Dragonfly below.
About Rotorcraft Dragonfly:
- It will be launched in 2026
- It would reach Saturns moon in 2034
- The spacecraft would travel to various locations on Titan
- In 2.7 years baseline, the spacecraft Dragonfly would also explore various environments from organic dunes to the floor of a crater in search of liquid water.
- Dragonfly is the first multi-rotor vehicle for science on another planet flown by NASA
- It has eight rotors and flies like a large drone.
- Dragonfly would take advantage of Titan’s dense atmosphere so as to become the first vehicle ever to fly carrying its complete science payload to new places for repeatable and targeted access to surface materials.
- Dragonfly was selected as part of the agency’s New Frontiers program
Significance of the mission:
- The rotorcraft Dragonfly would fly on various locations of Titan to look for prebiotic chemical processes that are common to both Eartha and Titan.
- Titan is said to be closely related to the prehistoric Earth which is why the study of this moon would be of great benefit to the space agencies.
- This way Titan can tell how life began on Earth.
- Moreover, such missions would also inform of any dangers that are posed by the universe to the Earth in future.
Steps of the Mission Dragonfly
- Dragonfly has taken advantage of 13 years’ of the data provided by Cassini to choose a calm weather period to land on Titan.
- It also knows about the safe initial landing sites and scientifically interesting targets on the moon of Saturn.
- It would first be landing on the equatorial “Shangri-La” dune fields. These are terrestrially similar to the linear dunes in Namibia in southern Africa and offer a diverse sampling location.
- It would then explore this region in short flights. It would use the technique of building a series of longer “leapfrog” flights (of up to 5 miles). It would in the way stop and collect samples from compelling areas with a diverse geography.
- The rotorcraft would then finally reach the Selk impact crater, where evidence of past liquid water was found.
- It contains organics along with complex molecules made of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and energy, which together make for the recipe for life.
- The lander would fly more than 175 kilometres that are almost double the distance travelled to date by all the Mars rovers combined.
Titan has a nitrogen-based atmosphere like Earth. However, the clouds rain of methane is not like Earth there. Various organic materials are formed in the atmosphere and fall like light snow on the surface. The moon’s weather and surface processes possess some complex organics, energy, and water. These are like those things that may have sparked life on Earth too.
Titan is larger than the planet Mercury and is the second-largest moon in our solar system. As it orbits Saturn, it is about 1.4 billion kilometres away from the Sun, about 10 times farther than Earth. Because it is so far from the Sun, its surface temperature is around -290 degrees Fahrenheit (-179 degrees Celsius). Its surface pressure is also 50 per cent higher than Earth’s.
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