NASA has delayed the launch of its Dragonfly drone meant to fly on Saturn’s Titan moon by one year to 2027 due to external factors, including COVID-19. The Dragonfly mission aims to explore Saturn’s Titan moon to look for the building blocks of life.
In an article released by NASA, the decision to move back the launch date for the Dragonfly mission was made public with the reason for the delay being external factors.
The mission was originally supposed to take-off in 2025 but was delayed to 2026 with everything looking ready to go. Now, due to the external factors including COIVD-19 the mission has been delayed once again to 2027.
Lori Glaze, Director for the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington said:
“NASA has the utmost confidence in the Dragonfly team to deliver a successful mission that conducts compelling science. Dragonfly will significantly increase our understanding of this richly organic world and help answer key astrobiology questions in our search to understand the processes that supported the development of life on Earth.”
The Dragonfly mission is a part of NASA’s New Frontiers Program that will be used to sample materials of Titan’s surface. The samples will be brought back to Earth once the mission is over where they will undergo testing to see if humans could one day live on the moon. While on Saturn’s Titan moon, the drone will complete the following measurements:
- Sample surface material and measure with a mass spectrometer to identify the chemical components and processes producing biologically relevant compounds
- Measure bulk elemental surface composition with a neutron-activated gamma-ray spectrometer
- Monitor atmospheric and surface conditions, including diurnal and spatial variations, with meteorology sensors
- Use imaging to characterize geologic features
- Perform seismic studies to detect subsurface activity and structure
- Contribute to atmospheric profiles
- Provide aerial images of surface geology
- Give context for surface measurements and scouting of sites of interest
Titan was chosen based on its similarities with Earth. Titan is considered an ocean world and is the only moon in the solar system to have a dense atmosphere that supports the Earth’s “hydrological cycle of methane clouds, rain, and liquid flowing across the surface to fill lakes and seas.” The surface of the moon is made up of complex organic materials, which are great for research purposes and studying it to see if we could live on it one day.