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Exploring Titan with Dragonfly

Presentation #509.01 in the session Titan Craters, Chemistry and Exploration.

Published onOct 20, 2022
Exploring Titan with Dragonfly

Titan sits at the intersection of terrestrial and ocean worlds. With a nitrogen dominated atmosphere that enables a hydrological cycle where liquid methane rains onto the surface, Titan’s atmospheric and geological processes create landscapes that are similar to those around us here on Earth. Titan’s chemistry, however, is more exotic, with sand grains ultimately made from the organic products of atmospheric photochemistry. While data from the Cassini-Huygens missions laid a new foundation to our understanding of this organic-rich ocean world, we are left with critical unknowns including the compositions of surface materials and the extent to which organics have been modified and transported. Dragonfly is a rotorcraft lander specifically designed to take advantage of the unique opportunities Titan offers to explore the pathways of prebiotic chemistry and limits of habitability. Selected as the fourth New Frontiers Mission in 2019, Dragonfly’s payload includes a mass spectrometer, a gamma ray/neutron spectrometer, camera suite, geophysics and meteorology sensor package, and a pneumatic transfer sampling system. Together, these instruments will interrogate the physical and chemical processes acting on Titan’s surface as the lander makes its way from the initial landing zone within the Shangri-la dune field to explore deposits from the Selk impact crater. In the former, we expect organic rich dunes and water-ice bedrock interdunes; at the latter, impact melt debris offers a glimpse into how far prebiotic chemistry can progress.

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