The US space agency NASA has announced a major change to its Dragonfly mission. The agency has decided to further delay its mission. The mission involves landing a robotic rotorcraft on the surface of Titan. Titan is one of the 82 known moons of Saturn. Titan is the largest moon of if the ringed planet. The agency said that its Dragonfly mission has been pushed to 2027. The mission was earlier slated for launch in 2026. The space agency wants to study the moon’s chemistry. NASA statement said that it has asked the Dragonfly team to pursue the next launch date in 2027 and keep the spacecraft ready.
NASA added that the mission architecture will remain the same even though the launch date has been delayed. The latest decision will not have any impact on Dragonfly’s capabilities once it lands on Titan. The spacecraft will look for signs whether it can harbor life. It will study Titan’s environment. According to the agency, Dragonfly will be equipped with technology to perform takeoffs and landings vertically. This will be done to survey multiple sites. NASA said Dragonfly will study Titan’s organic compounds and extraterrestrial habitability at dozens of sites. If all goes well, Dragonfly will become NASA’s first vehicle to fly its payload to multiple sites for exploration.
The decision to delay the launch date is believed to be taken due to coronavirus impact. The pandemic has affected the agency’s functioning and the budget of its Planetary Science Division. NASA exuded confidence that the Dragonfly team will deliver a successful mission. The spacecraft will land on Titan’s surface in 2034. The mission duration is 2.7 years. The mission will help increase scientists’ understanding of Titan. The mission was first proposed in April 2017. Past studies concluded that other than Earth, Titan is the only celestial body in the solar system with a dense atmosphere. It is the only moon with such an environment. It has stable bodies of surface liquid. This makes Titan a topic for scientists to search for life beyond Earth.