The exploration rovers slowly but inexorably go to nothing. They will be replaced by advanced drones that will search for traces of life on alien planets and their extraordinary moons much faster, cheaper and safer.
NASA has just announced the mission of a drone on Titan, the largest moon of Saturn. The launch of one of the largest and most risky ventures in the history of the agency is to take place in 2026, and in 2034 the drone will land on the surface of the facility. The mission will be part of the New Frontiers program, which aims to study alien worlds in the solar system.
Titan is one of the most interesting objects known to us. The surface has very low temperatures, there are natural reservoirs of liquid hydrocarbons, and the atmosphere is dominated by nitrogen, in other words, like on Earth. Astrobiologists believe that there are ideal conditions for the emergence and flowering of various life forms. Titan in its present form resembles the Earth from billions of years ago.
The exploratory drone will be equipped with a nuclear propulsion, or rather a radioisotope thermoelectric generator, eight rotors and a set of research instruments. According to the plan, the mission will be carried out in an area called Shangri-La. It lies on the equator of the moon and abounds in sand dunes. They bring to mind the views of African Namibia. The Selk crater will also be carefully examined. In it, there are signs of once-occurring water, as well as complex organic molecules based on carbon.
The scientific mission is to last 2.5 years. During its lifetime, the drone will travel about 175 kilometers of sandy areas and will fly over methane and ethane tanks. The device will also examine the state of the atmosphere. Scientists plan to take thousands of photos of the whole globe, and later find interesting formations that can tell us the history of the evolution of the moon.
On the occasion of the drone mission to Titan, it is worth adding that the first mission of this type of mankind in the history of mankind will take place next year. Then, a drone and a rover as part of the Mars 2020 mission will fly to the Red Planet.