NASA’s had an interest in Saturn’s moon Titan for a very long time. Previous space-centric missions including Cassini-Huygens and Voyager 2 made up close and personal observations of the distant world from space and via lander, but NASA plans to get even closer with an upcoming mission dubbed Dragonfly.
Titan is of particular interest to planetary scientists because it’s thought to be a lot like the primordial Earth. Not only does Titan possess a robust atmosphere, but it also may contain subsurface liquid methane oceans, cryovolcanoes, and a terrain that’s just as polarizing as our own here on Earth.
NASA’s upcoming Dragonfly mission will buzz around in Titan’s atmosphere for short bursts, capturing photographs and sampling the world’s chemistry. Perhaps more importantly, it will investigate the world’s habitability, and help scientists understand more about what the early Earth might’ve been like.
Dragonfly will be the first mission of its kind, and it will be helped along by Titan’s dense atmosphere, which will make it much easier to keep heavier objects off the ground with less power consumption. This makes Titan an ideal place to test this type of spacecraft and to prove its capabilities for otherworldly exploration.
NASA plans to launch Dragonfly by 2026, and given the distance between the Earth and Titan, it won’t be until 2034 that the probe arrives at its destination. Fortunately, valuable information such as this is well worth the wait.