NASA sends a helicopter to Titan in 2027. That’s where he will land

(ORDO NEWS) — Immersed in a hazy atmosphere that hides shallow lakes of liquid hydrocarbons, Titan is one of those strange worlds that we can’t wait to get a close look at.

That is why NASA is preparing to launch a robotic helicopter to survey the landscape in 2027.

We now have a better idea of ​​what landscapes await NASA’s Dragonfly mission.

Due to arrive on Saturn’s largest moon in 2034, the lander will eventually land in the Shangri-la dune field near Selk Crater.

Researchers describe it as a “scientifically noteworthy area” worth exploring, and we still have a lot to learn about it.

A new study maps six specific parts of the region, identifying it as a place that could be covered in sand dunes and broken, icy ground.

The work will serve as the basis for models and hypotheses that Dragonfly will be able to test after the probe lands.

“Dragonfly will land in the equatorial, arid region of Titan, a cold, atmospheric, hydrocarbon world. ,” says planetary scientist Lea Bonnefoy at Cornell University in New York.

“Sometimes it rains liquid methane, but it’s more like an earthly desert – there are dunes, small mountains and an impact crater. We are carefully studying the landing site, its structure and surface.”

This close look included a detailed analysis of the radar images taken by the Cassini probe. and reflect at different angles (technically known as their backscatter curves), the researchers were able to make educated guesses about parts of Titan’s surface.

Because Cassini images are only about 300 meters (984 feet) in resolution. ) per pixel, the team also took into account the data collected by the Huygens lander. landed just south of the new intended landing site.

So far, many of these details, such as the height and shape of Selk Crater, are no more than estimates, meaning there is a lot of analysis to be done. made between now and 2034.

“Over the next few years, we will see how much attention will be paid to the Selk crater area,” says planetary scientist Alex Hayes of Cornell University.

Dragonfly will become the so-called rotorcraft. a helicopter-like device that will operate similarly to a consumer drone when it reaches the landing zone. It is planned to weigh about 450 kg (992 lb) with eight rotors about a meter (3.3 ft) in diameter each.

In light winds and Titan’s low gravity atmosphere, the Dragonfly will fly at a top speed of 36 kilometers (22 miles) per hour, resulting in longer and longer flights from the initial landing site.

Because Titan is comparable to the early Earth in many ways, scientists hope to learn more about our own planet as well as Saturn’s moon.

Ultimately, our understanding of Titan is expected to expand significantly after the arrival of Dragonfly, just as the Curiosity rover showed us much more about Mars.

“Dragonfly is going to finally show us what this region – and Titan – looks like,” says Bonfoy.

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