Artist’s conception of Dragonfly descending and landing on Titan and then flying to its next destination. Credit: Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory

If you were anywhere near science Twitter yesterday afternoon, you might have heard the news:

NASA announced its next New Frontiers mission: Dragonfly, an automated drone that will fly the skies of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. Dragonfly, led by planetary scientist Elizabeth “Zibi” Turtle of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., will be launched in 2026 and arrive at Titan in 2034.

The nuclear-powered robotic helicopter will spend a few years flitting from one sandy spot to another, sampling Titan’s hydrocarbon dunes, exploring craters and lake beds, and sniffing out signs of life.

Planetary scientists have been itching to get back to Titan since the Huygens probe landed there in 2005. So they were understandably ecstatic at the Dragonfly reveal:

Scientists around the world overflowed with excitement…

…and Titan was happy to be getting a new friend:

Some questioned the nature of reality:

But Titan is so totally fetch…

…that people immediately began celebrating humanity’s return to the most Earth-like place in the solar system:

And the happiness continued the next day:

The wait to get back to Titan has been long:

The wait for Dragonfly data will be even longer:

But one thing’s now for certain: We’re going back to Titan!

—Kimberly M. S. Cartier (@AstroKimCartier), Staff Writer


Cartier, K. M. S. (2019), Spirits are flying high for Dragonfly and Titan, Eos, 100, Published on 28 June 2019.

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