NASA Dragonfly launch date, mission, cost, and alien hunting for the Titan explorer

In many ways, Saturn’s moon Titan is one of the more pleasant places you could take a stroll in our Solar System. It has a solid surface, for one thing, even if it’s a surface of hard ice speckled with lakes of gasoline-like hydrocarbons at a frigid 94 Kelvin, or around minus 290 degrees Fahrenheit.

“But you’re not in a vacuum,” Elizabeth Turtle tells Inverse. “You’re in an atmosphere just a little denser than ours, and you’re not in a radiation environment the way you are with a lot of the other bodies in the Solar System.”

Because of this dense atmosphere, NASA can do something only possible on a handful of worlds: take flight. Turtle, a NASA planetary scientist and principal investigator of the upcoming Dragonfly mission to Titan, wants to take advantage of the unique atmospheric properties of the cold moon to fly a drone-like probe there. Once it tentatively arrives in 2034, Dragonfly will spend three years flitting about the icy moon and doing the kind of science…