Dragonfly's mission to Titan gets its main target


NASA has officially approved the search for signs of life as the main goal of the Dragonfly mission. And if they find her there, she will probably be very strange.

Recall that the Dragonfly mission involves sending to Titan - the largest satellite of Saturn - a spacecraft with a Dragonfly drone on board.

The mission was originally presented in 2019, but now scientists have approved its main goal, and this fact in itself is very important. The fact is that, unlike Mars, where conditions for life, in general, exist even now, or Europa, where there is probably a huge subsurface ocean of water under the thick crust of ice, Titan is fundamentally different from Earth and all other potentially suitable at least for the primitive life forms of the solar system sites.

Titanium has a very dense atmosphere of nitrogen with admixtures of methane and ethane, and on its surface, there are lakes and rivers, but they are composed of methane. And this is possible, because the pressure on this satellite is one and a half times higher than the Earth's, while the temperature lies in the region of -170 degrees. And if there are any life forms out there, they must be radically different from anything we know. At least this applies to life on the surface.

The Dragonfly will look for chemical biosignatures that may indicate the presence of life now or in the past. The project team has already selected an approximate landing zone for the probe, from where it will be possible to reach the most interesting places. Initially, Dragonfly will land among the dunes near the equator, where it can collect samples. It is assumed that the helicopter will stay at each new location for about one local day, which corresponds to 16 Earth days. This will give scientists time to both take samples and plot a new route. Ultimately, the drone must travel to the Selk Crater, where subsurface waters may mix with surface organics.

Also, we recall that scientists are now studying the possibility of returning samples from Titan to Earth. Unfortunately, as already mentioned, scientists will have to wait for the first data for a very long time. The start of the mission is scheduled for 2026, and the device will arrive at Titan only in 2034.

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