NASA plans to send a sci-fi craft to explore a distant moon

NASA has enthusiastically confirmed its plans to send a sci-fi craft to explore a distant moon.

The groundbreaking Dragonfly mission, set to navigate a car-sized craft equipped with eight spinning rotors around Saturn’s moon Titan, has been given the green light for flight. Currently in advanced stages of design and fabrication, the mission boasts an approved budget, transportation via a heavy-lift rocket, and a slated launch date in 2028.

“Dragonfly is a remarkable science mission generating widespread community interest, and we are thrilled to advance to the next stages of this venture,” stated Nicky Fox, head of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “The exploration of Titan will challenge the boundaries of rotorcraft capabilities beyond Earth.”

Titan, situated some 880 million miles from Earth, presents a captivating landscape. As the only moon in our solar system with a dense atmosphere and surface liquid bodies—albeit composed of liquid methane instead of water—Titan’s icy dunes contain the essential organic components conducive to the development of life as we understand it. Dragonfly will conduct repeated landings, take-offs, and explorations over a span of three to five years in these intriguing terrains.

The moon’s pristine surface offers a realm of scientific intrigue, housing ancient “prebiotic” conditions that could have facilitated the emergence of life in our solar system—a glimpse into a primordial Earth. Elizabeth “Zibi” Turtle, a planetary scientist at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and principal investigator of the mission, described Titan as “the only place in the solar system that has this kind of chemistry.”

In addition to identifying and analyzing organic molecules on Titan and investigating their formation processes, the mission aims to assess its potential habitability and search for potential signs of life.

Despite facing challenges such as budgetary constraints and delays due to factors like the COVID-19 pandemic and supply chain issues, the Dragonfly mission, with a total cost of $3.35 billion including operations, is now sealed for cosmic exploration. Set to embark on a six-year journey, the craft is scheduled to touch down on Titan’s surface in 2034. Leveraging the moon’s low gravity and dense atmosphere for lift, Dragonfly will traverse various locations on this frigid world, promising unprecedented discoveries in the realm of deep space exploration.







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