Titan's thin atmosphere would make a drone an ideal way to get around. Image Credit: NASA
NASA is considering a mission to Saturn's moon Titan that would use a drone to scout across large areas.
Titan is a place that, on the outset, appears to possess many things that seem uncannily familiar - oceans, rivers, snow-capped mountains and even an active weather system.
Take a closer look however and it soon becomes apparent that Titan couldn't be more alien. Its rivers and oceans aren't filled with liquid water but with an exotic form of liquid hydrocarbons, while its snow-capped peaks are actually dusted with a coating of methane, not water ice.
While the Huygens probe managed to catch a glimpse of this alien world back in 2005, scientists have since longed for an opportunity to explore a much larger part of Titan's surface.
Now though, it looks as though such a mission might actually be on the cards, that is, at least, if it is selected by NASA as one of two finalists for the space agency's robotic exploration program.
The plan would see a helicopter drone known as the Dragonfly land on Titan by parachute before taking off and exploring vast swathes of the moon's surface.
After each flight, it would return to its landing site so that it could recharge its batteries with its radioisotope thermoelectric generator.
Other sites of interest could then be visited on subsequent flights.
"Titan is a fascinating ocean world," said Elizabeth Turtle, principal investigator for Dragonfly.
"There's so much amazing science and discovery to be done on Titan, and the entire Dragonfly team and our partners are thrilled to begin the next phase of concept development."
Source: Universe Today | Comments (3)