Yes Please! NASA is Considering a Helicopter Mission to Titan

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The usually thing cooler than promulgation a helicopter worker to try Titan is promulgation a chief powered one to do a job. Called a “Dragonfly” spacecraft, this helicopter worker goal has been comparison as one of twin finalists for NASA’s robotic scrutiny missions designed for a midst 2020’s. NASA comparison a Dragonfly goal from 12 proposals they were deliberation underneath their New Horizons program.

Titan is Saturn’s largest moon, and is a primary aim in a hunt for life in a Solar System. Titan has glass hydrocarbon lakes on a surface, a carbon-rich chemistry, and sub-surface oceans. Titan also cycles methane a approach Earth cycles water.

This true-color picture of Titan, taken by a Cassini spacecraft, shows a moon's thick, misty atmosphere. Image: By NASA -, Public Domain,

This true-color picture of Titan, taken by a Cassini spacecraft, shows a moon’s thick, misty atmosphere. Image: By NASA –, Public Domain,

Dragonfly would perform a goal by hopping around on a aspect of Titan. Once an initial alighting site is comparison on Titan, Dragonfly will land there with a assistance of a ‘chute. Dragonfly will spend durations of time on a ground, where it will assign a batteries with a radioisotope thermoelectric generator. Once charged, it would afterwards fly for hours during time, travelling tens of kilometers during any flight. Titan’s unenlightened atmosphere and low sobriety (compared to Earth) allows for this form of mission.

During these particular flights, intensity alighting sites would be identified for serve systematic work. Dragonfly will lapse to a initial alighting site, and usually revisit other sites once they have been accurate as safe.

Dragonfly is being grown during a Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (JHAPL.) It has a rough pattern weight of 450 kg. It’s a double quad-copter design, with 4 sets of twin rotors.

“Titan is a fascinating sea world,” pronounced APL’s Elizabeth Turtle, principal questioner for Dragonfly. “It’s a usually moon in a solar complement with a unenlightened atmosphere, weather, clouds, rain, and glass lakes and seas—and those liquids are ethane and methane. There’s so most extraordinary scholarship and find to be finished on Titan, and a whole Dragonfly group and a partners are anxious to start a subsequent proviso of judgment development.”

The scholarship objectives of a Dragonfly goal core around prebiotic organic chemistry and habitability on Titan. It will expected have 4 instruments:

  • Mass Spectrometer
  • Gamma-Ray Spectrometer
  • Atmospheric and Geophysical Sensors
  • Cameras

Being selected as a finalist has a group behind Dragonfly vehement for a project. “This brings us one step closer to rising a confidant and really sparkling space scrutiny goal to Titan,” pronounced APL Director Ralph Semmel. “We are beholden for a event to serve rise a New Frontiers proposals and vehement about a impact these NASA missions will have for a world.”

Exploring Titan binds a daunting set of challenges. But as we’ve seen in new years, NASA and a partners have a capability to accommodate those challenges. The JHAPL group behind Dragonfly also designed and built a New Horizons goal to Pluto and a Kuiper Belt intent 2014 MU69. Their lane record of success has everybody vehement about a Dragonfly mission.

The Dragonfly mission, and a other finalist—the Comet Astrobiology Exploration Sample Return being grown by Cornell University and a Goddard Space Flight Center—will any accept appropriation by a finish of 2018 to work on a concepts. In a Spring of 2019, NASA will name one of them and will account a continued development.

Dragonfly is partial of NASA’s New Frontiers program. New Frontiers missions are heavenly scholarship missions with a top of approximately $850 million. New Frontiers missions embody a Juno goal to Jupiter, a Osiris-REx asteroid sample-return missions, and a aforementioned New Horizons goal to Pluto.

Further reading:

  • NASA Detects More Chemicals on Titan that are Essential for Life
  • Scientists Find Evidence of Extreme Methane Storms on Titan


Source: Universe Today, created by Evan Gough.

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