In DepthPlanetary Science

NASA to fly drone on Titan

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Science  05 Jul 2019:
Vol. 365, Issue 6448, pp. 15
DOI: 10.1126/science.365.6448.15-a

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Summary

NASA has selected Dragonfly, its next $1 billion planetary science mission, for launch in 2026. Upon arrival in 2034, the craft, a quadcopter drone the size of a car, will touch down across the icy surface in search of a chemistry that could foster life. Titan, first explored by NASA's Cassini spacecraft and its Huygens probe, is home to Earthlike terrain, except its plateaus are made of ice and its rivers of hydrocarbon gas. Dragonfly will hop between distant landing sites every couple of weeks. Titan's thick air and low gravity will allow the quadcopter to hover much more easily than on Earth. The drone will carry drills on its skids that it will allow it to sample Titan's terrain with an onboard chemistry lab.

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