A close-up view
On January 14, 2005, NASA's Cbadini spacecraft successfully landed the Huygen probe of the European Space Agency on January 14, 2005, the farthest landing on Earth. But the probe ran out of battery in just a couple of hours.
A team of scientists from the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University has been eager to return to the misty moon of Saturn. But this time, instead of sending a stationary probe, the team wants to send a drone that could explore the moon from above its surface, but far below its thick, nitrogen-rich atmosphere.
"We did not know how Titan worked as a system before Cbadini came in. We had tempting suggestions, but Cbadini and Huygens really took it from [being] this mysterious moon for [being] "A place that is incredibly familiar," said Dragonfly principal investigator and Johns Hopkins University scientist Elizabeth Turtle. Space.com.
The mission called Dragonfly could eventually explore the most promising and potentially habitable sites on Titan. Scientists plan to take advantage of the low gravity of the moon and the thick atmosphere to visit several sites with the drone.
Crossing the fingers
And the proposed mission could really take shape, that is, if NASA chooses it over a different finalist proposal this year. NASA chose the two finalist concepts, including Dragonfly, for their next mission in mid-2020 in December 2017.
The team behind Dragonfly presented a more detailed concept in December of last year, and is awaiting a decision from NASA in the summer. Space.com reports. If chosen this year, the Dragonfly mission would launch around 2025 to reach Titan nine long years later.
And they are optimists. "Not only is it an incredibly exciting concept with a surprising and compelling science, but it is also feasible: it is feasible from an engineering point of view," said Melissa Trainer, Principal Investigator of Dragonfly and NASA scientist. Space.com.