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NASA is sending a drone to explore Saturn’s largest moon

ESA (European Space Agency) Cassini project scientist, Nicolas Altobelli answers a question from the media during a press conference held after the end of the Cassini mission, Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. On Sept. 15, 2017, operators deliberately plunged the spacecraft into Saturn, as Cassini gathered science until the end. (NASA/Joel Kowsky/Released)

NASA will send the Dragonfly drone on an 8-year mission to explore Saturn’s largest moon, the ice-covered Titan.

The program, which plans to launch in 2026 and land in 2034 will cost $850-million, according to the Associated Press. The nuclear-powered vessel will use propellers to touchdown at various points of the moon.

“What really excites me about this mission is that Titan has all the ingredients needed for life,” said NASA planetary science director Lori Glaze.

Titan’s mostly nitrogen atmosphere, which is 5% methane, makes the planet one of the most similar to Earth. It also has an ocean under its frozen surface.

The distance between Saturn and Earth fluctuates between 746 million and a billion miles. Titan circles Saturn from 759,000 miles away and takes nearly 16 days to complete an orbit.


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