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Image credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL

NASA delays its Titan drone mission by another year

Yes, the pandemic played a role.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
September 27, 2020
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NASA Dragonfly Titan drone
NASA/Johns Hopkins APL

You’ll have to be more patient if you’re waiting for NASA to send a drone to Saturn’s moon Titan. The space agency has delayed Dragonfly’s launch by roughly a year, from 2026 to 2027, due to “external” factors. And yes, the COVID-19 pandemic is one of them — its impact on the Planetary Science Division budget made it more practical to wait.

NASA had originally planned to launch Dragonfly in 2025 before the first delay.

It’s an ambitious project. This will represent NASA’s first multi-rotor science vehicle on another celestial body, and the first of any kind to carry its full science payload between multiple areas. The drone will spend nine years flying relatively regular missions to collect samples and study both the habitability of Titan as well as the development of its prebiotic chemistry in a key impact crater.

It may take a long while to learn more about Titan as a result. If all goes well, though, Dragonfly should shed more light on the still-mysterious moon and the viability of life beyond Earth.

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