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Science & Research

U Of I Scientist Hopes To Send Mission To Titan

John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
Artist rendering of Dragonfly mission.

A University of Idaho scientist is working on a project that could be the next NASA mission to Saturn’s moon Titan.

Dragonfly is the name of the mission, which would send a giant drone-like rotorcraft to Titan. Jason Barnes, a physics professor at the University of Idaho, coordinates a lot of the science for Dragonfly.

Titan has a thick atmosphere and rains methane, while the surface could be gooey and sticky and may have giant boulders. Because of those possible conditions, Barnes says it made sense to propose a big quad copter, instead of a rover, to take pictures and samples from the moon.

“Once every Titan day, which is every 16 Earth days, so every couple weeks or so, we will take off and fly up to a couple tens of kilometers and land in a new spot and be able to do those measurements all over again,” says Barnes.

Dragonfly is one of two projects competing for a chance to fly with NASA.

If chosen, Dragonfly would launch in 2025 and take nine years to get to Titan. Barnes won’t know until next summer if his project will make the cut. He'll speak Friday at 7:30 p.m. about the mission at the First Friday Astronomy Lecture at Boise State.

Find Samantha Wright on Twitter @samwrightradio

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