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NASA to send a drone to Saturn’s moon

The Associated Press

NASA/AP
This artist’s rendering shows multiple views of the Dragonfly dual-quadcopter lander that would take advantage of the atmosphere on Saturn’s moon Titan to explore multiple locations, some hundreds of kilometers apart.

The Associated PressGet ready to see another world from the eyes of a dragonfly — at least, a robotic one.

NASA said Thursday that it’s sending a drone called Dragonfly to explore Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. Using propellers, the drone will fly and land on several spots on the icy moon to study whether it can support microbial life.

The nuclear-powered mission is part of NASA’s competitive New Frontiers program, which launched the New Horizons spacecraft that became the first to visit dwarf planet Pluto.

Dragonfly beat out nearly a dozen proposed projects, including a mission to collect samples from a nearby comet. The drone is slated to launch in 2026 and arrive at Titan in 2034. The plan is to land on some of Titan’s dunes and later on a crater. Development costs for the mission are capped at around $850 million.

“What really excites me about this mission is that Titan has all the ingredients needed for life,” said Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s planetary science division.

Titan is a haze-covered world with a thick atmosphere. The moon has lakes of methane, mountains of ice and an ocean below the surface, making it an attractive place to explore whether its environment can support primitive life.

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