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The quadcopter will be looking for prebiotic chemical processes common on both Titan and Earth. Dragonfly will be the first time NASA operates a multi-rotor vehicle for space exploration on another planet; it is classified as rotorcraft, has eight rotors and flies like a drone. Flying will be difficult and will use a lot of energy. This is because of Titan's atmosphere is four times thicker than Earth's.
Sometime in 2034, Dragonfly will land at the equatorial "Shangri-La" dune fields, which are similar to dunes in Namibia in southern Africa. For the next three years, Dragonfly will leapfrog around the moon, 5 miles at a time. At the end of its mission, it will reach the Selk impact crater, where there could be evidence of water and possible life.
NASA has announced that our next destination in the solar system is the unique, richly organic world Titan. Advancing our search for the building blocks of life, the Dragonfly mission will fly multiple sorties to sample and examine sites around Saturn’s icy moon.
Dragonfly will launch in 2026 and arrive in 2034. The rotorcraft will fly to dozens of promising locations on Titan looking for prebiotic chemical processes common on both Titan and Earth. Dragonfly marks the first time NASA will fly a multi-rotor vehicle for science on another planet; it has eight rotors and flies like a large drone. It will take advantage of Titan’s dense atmosphere – four times denser than Earth’s – to become the first vehicle ever to fly its entire science payload to new places for repeatable and targeted access to surface materials.
Titan is an analog to the very early Earth, and can provide clues to how life may have arisen on our planet. During its 2.7-year baseline mission, Dragonfly will explore diverse environments from organic dunes to the floor of an impact crater where liquid water and complex organic materials key to life once existed together for possibly tens of thousands of years. Its instruments will study how far prebiotic chemistry may have progressed. They also will investigate the moon’s atmospheric and surface properties and its subsurface ocean and liquid reservoirs. Additionally, instruments will search for chemical evidence of past or extant life.
“With the Dragonfly mission, NASA will once again do what no one else can do,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.