Space Agency NASA has approved two new and interesting space mission. Within one scheduled landing of a flying spacecraft to Saturn’s moon Titan, part of the other collection of soil samples from the surface of the comet. Both missions were selected among 12 proposals submitted as a possible continuation of the program New Frontiers.
The first mission is called “Dragonfly”. It plans an unprecedented project of sending a robotic flying machine on one of Saturn’s moons. Apparatus in the form of quadcopter will be equipped with scientific tools for search and analysis of large organic molecules. During the mission, the robot drone will be able to visit and explore many places on Titan and in total cover a distance of several hundred kilometers.
A large and cold moon of Saturn has a dense atmosphere and on its surface are the rivers and entire lakes of liquid methane. But not only interested scientists. There is a suspicion that under the icy crust of the satellite may be hiding an ocean of water.
“This environment has all the things we used to call the ingredients of life,” says lead researcher Elizabeth Turtle of the applied physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University.
“With the help of the mission Dragonfly we will be able to assess how far I have advanced prebiotic chemistry”.
Second, the selected mission is called CAESAR (Comet Astrobiology Exploration SAmple Return), and return on comet 67P/Churyumov — Gerasimenko. The comet, as we already visited the spacecraft “Rosetta” the European space Agency in the framework of the mission 2014-2016.
After rendezvous with a comet the size of mount Fuji, CAESAR spacecraft will collect samples of its surface and go back to Earth, where he will arrive in November 2038. It should be noted that NASA has already collected samples of the comet, the mission Stardust. However, in the framework of the new mission, the collection of samples is planned for the first time to produce directly with the ice surface of the comet, and not just particles left by the comet as it was before.
“Comets are not only among the most important from a scientific point of view, objects in the Solar system, but also the least studied among them,” says researcher Steve Squyers of Cornell University, who will be responsible for the mission CAESAR.
This increased interest in comets is associated with the assumptions of scientists about what comet could deliver on the early Earth, with water and organic molecules, virtually laying the foundations of the origin of life on our planet.
Most scientists want to obtain samples of the so-called “volatile” molecules of the comet 67P/Churyumov — Gerasimenko, which is able to quickly move to a gaseous state. According to researchers, these particles may be the key to understand the nature of the origin and history of this comet.
The choice of the two missions were announced this week. Now they are about the conceptual stage, in which the scientists in charge of projects, will be able to work out the details. Unfortunately, to realize both the mission will fail. The final stage of the selection process and the selection of one of the two projects is scheduled for July 2019. For the actual implementation of the winning project will begin in 2025.
Among other potential missions proposed in the program New Frontiers have been suggestions for the study of Saturn and Venus, asteroids, around Jupiter, as well as sending Autonomous orbital spacecraft to Enceladus, another moon of Saturn.
Currently, in the framework of the program New Frontiers are from three space missions: New horizons (studied the system of Pluto and is heading to the edge of the Solar system), “Juno” (the unit explores Jupiter) and “OSIRIS REx” (flies to meet with the asteroid Bennu, which will make the collection of soil samples, and return to Earth in 2023).