NASAs Dragonfly to explore Saturns moon for origins, signs of life

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"Titan is unlike any other place in the solar system, and Dragonfly is like no other mission", said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA's associate administrator for science at the agency's headquarters in Washington.

Taking advantage of Titan's dense atmosphere and low gravity, a rotorcraft called "Dragonfly" will fly to dozens of promising locations on Titan looking for prebiotic chemical processes common on both Titan and Earth, the U.S. space agency said in a statement.

It is the second largest moon in our solar system, being even bigger than the planet Mercury, and the air in it is actually rather similar to Earth's in that it is mostly nitrogen.

The mission consists of a lander who gets the name Dragonfly. According to Space.com, the probe will then spend at least 2.5 years cruising around the 3,200-mile-wide Titan, making about two dozen flights that cover a total of about 110 miles.

Titan has an atmosphere that is 1.5 times as heavy as the earth, but gravity is only fourteen percent that of our planet.

NASA announced Thursday that it is sending a billion-dollar flying robot to explore the surface of Saturn's largest moon, Titan, as part of a new mission called "Dragonfly". Selk is seen as a particularly good place to study prebiotic (organic) chemistry and look for signs of life.

It has instruments that can be used to test the moon's atmosphere and surface, as well as an underground ocean.

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Also, according to NASA, "Dragonfly" will investigate the atmospheric properties of Titan and will try to find any chemical evidence about the existence of living organisms.

"This cutting-edge mission would have been unthinkable even just a few years ago, but we're now ready for Dragonfly's wonderful flight".

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Upon arrival, Dragonfly will land in the "Shangri-La" dune fields, which NASA likened to the linear dunes in Namibia.

Dragonfly will explore this region in short flights, building up to a series of longer "leapfrog" flights of up to 5 miles (8 kilometers), stopping along the way to take samples from compelling areas with diverse geography. "Visiting this mysterious ocean world could revolutionize what we know about life in the universe", said NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine. "It's remarkable to think of this rotorcraft flying miles and miles across the organic sand dunes of Saturn's largest moon, exploring the processes that shape this extraordinary environment". It also has methane rain. The weather is more complex, with surface processes combining complex organics, energy and water which could have brought life to Earth during its early history.

Saturn's Titan is considered to be one of the most hospitable worlds in our solar system.

Dragonfly will feature several cameras, as well as an assortment of scientific equipment, including spectrometers to identify large organic molecules, a host of meteorology sensors and a seismometer to detect quakes that could reveal the thickness of the moon's ice crust. However, the presence of microbial life could shed light on the evolution of life on Earth.

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