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NASA excitedly confirms it will fly a sci-fi craft on distant moon

NASA excitedly confirms it will fly a sci-fi craft on distant moon

Folks, it's happening.

NASA It was declared unprecedented Dragonfly Mission – which will fly the car-sized craft around Saturn's moons in eight orbits Titan – is certified for flight. The mission, in its advanced stages of design and fabrication, has an approved budget, a payload (a heavy-lift rocket), and a launch date of 2028.

“Dragonfly is an outstanding science mission that has community interest, and we are excited to take the next steps on the mission,” Nicky Fox, head of the space agency's Science Mission Directorate, said in a statement. “Exploring Titan will push the limits of what we can do with rotorcraft beyond Earth.”

Titan, located about 880 million miles away. Earth, is an interesting world. Bigger than us MoonIt is the only moon in our solar system that harbors a dense atmosphere and bodies of surface liquid—although Titan's vast oceans are composed of liquid methane, not water. Meanwhile, Titan's icy dunes are filling up. Organic ingredients The development of life (as we know it) requires This is where Dragonfly will repeatedly land, take off and explore over about three to five years.

This is the realm of great scientific intrigue because ancient surfaces host ancient, “prebiotic” conditions that could have provided the ingredients for what would eventually become our life. solar system. It is like an ancient land.

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“This is really the only place in the solar system where this kind of chemistry exists,” Elizabeth “Zibby” Turtle, a planetary scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and the mission's principal investigator, told Mashable in 2023.

This image from NASA's Cassini spacecraft shows the sun reflecting off Titan's northern methane oceans.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. University of Arizona/Idaho

Concept of a dragonfly above the dunes of Titan.

Concept of a dragonfly above the dunes of Titan.
Credit: NASA / Johns Hopkins APL / Steve Gribben

Moreover, while the nuclear-powered spacecraft identifies what organic molecules are on Titan, and how they are formed, the mission could also reveal whether these A habitable world (meaning whether it can host organisms) and find out. Possible signatures of life.

deep the location The mission, like many such endeavors, saw ballooning costs that resulted in budget problems and delays. The now $3.35 billion spaceflight (including operations) was beset by “additional costs due to the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain escalations, and intensive design iterations.” NASA explained..

But now the cosmic pact is sealed. After six years of travel Saturn-Bondcraft is expected to land on Titan in a decade, 2034. With the moon's low gravity and dense atmosphere – which makes it easy to generate lift – the buzzing craft will fly to various locations on this cold world.

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