As part of NASA’s New Frontiers program, they have selected their next mission – a drone-like lander that will explore the surface of Saturn’s moon Titan.
The Dragonfly mission will send a dual-quadcopter to the surface of Titan. About every 16 days it will fly tens of miles above the surface for about an hour before stopping to rest and recharge. During these “hops”, Dragonfly will sample the moon’s surface material and observe its weather patterns.
The Huygens probe (carried by Cassini) was the first to give us a good view of the moon’s surface. It was found that Titan had a thick atmosphere and liquid methane coverings its surface. This interested NASA scientists who have been longing to send a lander to the moon to better understand its unusual characteristics.
Three prior New Frontiers missions are already in program and include:
The Juno spacecraft – in orbit around Jupiter.
New Horizons – flew past Pluto in 2015 and the Kuiper Belt object in December 2018.
OSIRIS-REX – currently in orbit around the asteroid Bennu.