From the Moon to Mars, we've already made great strides towards learning more about the solar system. But in only a matter of time, we'll be exploring more uncharted territory: Saturn. Here's what to know about NASA's upcoming mission and why it's going to go down in the history books...
As NASA recently revealed, they’ll be sending a relocatable rotorcraft lander to explore Saturn’s moon in the upcoming years. And with good reason. Titled Titan, the planet’s moon holds lots of scientific questions we have yet to answer. Dragonfly, the name given to the future mission, will hopefully provide such answers.
"Titan represents an explorer’s utopia," explained Alex Hayes, a Dragonfly co-investigator. "The science questions we have for Titan are very broad because we don’t know much about what is actually going on at the surface yet. For every question we answered during the Cassini mission’s exploration of Titan from Saturn orbit, we gained 10 new ones."
As for how Dragonfly plans on solving these questions? The upcoming mission, calling for the first official probe to land on Titan's surface, will be investigating the moon's habitability as well as potential chemical biosignatures. For a full Titan day (equivalent to 16 Earth days), Dragonfly will conduct various scientific experiments and observations before exploring other territories on the planet.
Thanks to cutting-edge technology, the lander will cover endless miles of territory - further than any planetary rover has ever ventured. "What’s so exciting to me is that we’ve made predictions about what’s going on at the local scale on the surface and how Titan works as a system," Hayes shared. "Dragonfly’s images and measurements are going to tell us how right or wrong they are."
The mission is set to kick off in mid-2027, accounting for an estimated 8 years of travel time. If things go as planned, Dragonfly will touch down on the Ringed Planet in 2036. Check out the rest of NASA's plans, documented in the Planetary Science Journal here. And until then, make sure to stay tuned for all the latest updates.