Science

NASA considering missions to comet and Saturn's Moon Titan

NASA considering missions to comet and Saturn's Moon Titan”

The CAESAR (Comet Astrobiology Exploration SAmple Return) spacecraft, led by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, would return to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the same comet that was mapped by the Rosetta spacecraft in recent years.

"Titan is a unique ocean world", planetary scientist Elizabeth Turtle, who's leading the Dragonfly mission, said during a NASA teleconference on Wednesday. The mission would grab a sample from the nucleus of Churyumov-Gerasimenko, with the hope of learning about how those materials contributed to the early Earth, including the origins of our oceans and life.

One of the finalists, named 'Dragonfly, ' is a lander that would head to Saturn's moon Titan.

The Dragonfly missions suggests NASA send a drone-like spacecraft to Titan to sample and analyze the moon's chemical composition at dozens of test sites.

NASA's New Frontiers program aims to develop missions to explore planets and bodies in the Solar System. It will be the fourth mission in this series of a satellite that has a development cost cap of almost $1 billion, which is a medium-size planetary mission by NASA standards. But these missions usually run around $1 billion, making them a little more expensive than the space agency's smaller Discovery missions - like the Dawn spacecraft orbiting around the dwarf planet Ceres - which hover around less than half a billion dollars. Dragonfly would study various locations on Titan's surface for a number of years and attempt to determine whether or not the large moon is habitable.

You may recognize the current missions in the New Frontiers program, since they're some of NASA's most interesting projects-New Horizons, the spacecraft that flew by Pluto and is now approaching a mysterious Kuiper Belt object; Juno, which is taking the best photographs we've ever seen of Jupiter; and OSIRIS-REx, which is en route to retrieve a tiny piece of an asteroid. NASA started accepting proposals for a fourth mission in December of previous year, and all submissions had to be sent in by April 28th. One, called Enceladus Life Signatures and Habitability, is aimed at developing techniques to keep Earth's spacecraft from contaminating other worlds.

The Venus In situ Composition Investigations project involves the development of a laser-based instrument capable of analyzing soil and rock samples under the harsh conditions found on the surface of Venus.

Those missions include two comet missions, a Saturn probe and three proposals to visit Saturn's moons.



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