NASA’s Nuclear Drone Will Search for Life on Titan
The US space agency announced that for its future mission to study the solar system, it plans to deliver to the surface of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, an unmanned kradrocopter that will search for chemical signs of life..
Mission «Dragonfly» (Dragonfly) kicks off in 2026 and will land on the surface of an icy moon eight years later. A drone with eight rotors will travel on short flights of up to 8 km with a break of 16 days, since in fact it will be a mobile three-meter station weighing 300 kg. Although it will need 38 times less power to hover in the atmosphere on Titan than in terrestrial conditions, it will not be powered by solar panels, but from a nuclear reactor..
The drone will study the chemical composition of the dunes, craters and atmosphere of the satellite for three years, determining how far the prebiotic chemistry has advanced. The craft is slated to eventually fly 175 km and reach the 90 km Selk impact crater, where there are signs of past liquid water, organic materials and energy..
The quadcopter will not have robotic arms like rovers, so before analyzing, the device will bombard the surface with neutrino radiation and study the resulting gamma rays to determine the type of terrain. After landing on a suitable site, he will take samples using two impact drills, and then analyze their composition using mass spectrometry..
The research mission itself was allocated $ 850 million and another $ 150 million for launch.
Titan is the only celestial body in our system, besides the Earth, on the surface of which there are liquid rivers, lakes and seas, although they are composed of hydrocarbons such as methane and ethane rather than water. It also has a thick layer of ice beneath which is an ocean made up mostly of water..
Scientists expect that a visit to this mysterious world will help to better understand the mechanisms of the origin of life in the Universe. The underground ocean is capable of supporting life as we know it, while the hydrocarbon lakes and seas on the surface may contain life forms that depend on different chemistry, or the satellite may be lifeless..
Recall that researchers recently discovered an incredible anomaly under the moon’s largest crater.
text: Ilya Bauer, photo and video: NASA