(ORDO NEWS) — NASA’s 450-kilogram Dragonfly rotorcraft, which will launch in 2027, is scheduled to land on Titan in the area of Selk Crater in 2034.
Lea Bonnefoy of Cornell University and her colleagues explored the landscape of the arrival zone by combining and analyzing all the radar images of the terrain obtained by the Cassini spacecraft during its historic 13-year study of the Saturn system.
“Dragonfly will land in the equatorial, dry region of Titan,” Bonnefoy said. “Sometimes it rains liquid methane, but this area is more like a desert on Earth, with dunes, a few small mountains and an impact crater.
We carefully examine the landing site, its structure and surface. To do this, we study the radar images obtained by the Cassini-Huygens mission and see how the radar signal changes at different viewing angles.”
At the beginning of the Cassini mission, in January 2005, the Huygens probe landed on Titan, and transmitted to Cassini photographs of river valleys that are invisible on radar.
Bonnefoy and her team used radar images to map 6 terrains in the area, characterizing the landscape and measuring the height of the rim of Selk Crater.
Knowing the shape of the crater helps not only to understand the geology of the region, but also to identify targets for Dragonfly research.
Dragonfly is scheduled to launch in 2027 and arrive on Titan in 2034. The mission on Titan will last 3 years.
Titan’s atmosphere, composed mostly of nitrogen with a dash of methane, is four times denser than Earth’s.
It will allow the Dragonfly, which is about the size of a small car, to operate as a drone and conduct research in astrobiology and chemistry.
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