Physics Department Seminar University of Alaska Fairbanks

J O U R N A L    C L U B


Dragonfly:  NASA's Titan Rotorcraft Lander

Jason Barnes
Physics Department, University of Idaho



Dragonfly is NASA's most recently selected New-Frontiers-class medium-sized planetary mission.  Dragonfly will explore prebiotic chemistry, evaluate habitability, and search for chemical biosignatures on Saturn's huge moon Titan.  Titan's draw derives from its status as an Ocean World.  Like Europa, Enceladus, and potentially other icy outer solar system objects, Titan sports a liquid water ocean beneath its icy outer crust.  But unlike those sister Ocean Worlds, Titan's surface and atmosphere contain a large quantity and complexity of carbon compounds. When liquid water develops transiently on Titan's surface -- either from cryovolcanism or impact melt -- water mixes with that surface organic material. Dragonfly will explore the chemistry of the resulting mixture at 80-km-diameter Selk Crater where that water, though now frozen, shows pathways for prebiotic chemistry that may resemble the process through which life formed on Earth 4 billion years ago.  I will discuss the specific scientific experiments that the Dragonfly lander will enable, as well as the instrumentation and exploration strategies that the science team will use to answer our science questions once we land by 2034.


Friday, 12 August 2022

Globe Room, Elvey Building and on Zoom :