NASA announced Thursday that it is broadcasting a drone-style rotorcraft to Titan, Saturn's largest moon.
The so-called dragonfly can fly over the sky of Titan and occasionally carry out scientific measurements. The mission is being developed and led by the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University in Laurel, Maryland. The launch is scheduled for 2026.
"Scientifically speaking, titanium is an incredibly unique opportunity," said Elizabeth Turtle, who will lead the mission mission for the lab as its lead investigator, in an April interview given before NASA's announcement. "It's not just an ocean world ̵
Where a Mars rover can only travel ten or more inches The Dragonfly team, Titan's sky and the drone's nuclear fuel source are the limits.
"We have the capacity to cover hundreds of miles throughout the lifetime of the mission. One of the advantages we have is that we can always explore the next location. We can fly ahead, look at it, see what kind of terrain there is, and decide if we want to go there or elsewhere, "says Dr. Turtle.
Half years in the class of science missions of NASA called New Frontiers, which cost less than $ 1 billion. The contest, which is held between several state and academic institutions, resembles a "shark tank" for exploration of space.
The other finalist of the contest was Caesar – the Comet Astrobiology Exploration Sample Return Mission – with the goal of collecting a sample of the comet 67P / Churyumov-Gerasimenko and bringing it back to Earth for analysis. This comet was previously explored by Rosetta, a spacecraft built by the European Space Agency, until its mission ended in 2016.