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A mission will Land on Saturn's moon Titan and will return with samples



NASA's Advanced Concepts Initiative (NAIC) program has introduced a novel return-to- Earth sample system that leverages resources at destination as a propellant for the return.

 

Applied to the specific setting of Saturn's moon Titan, this proposal uses volatile propellants in situ available on its surface. The idea is to provide a system for returning to Earth the samples obtained by the Dragonfly mission, a flying artifact that is expected to be sent in 2027 to reach Titan in 2036 with the aim of exploring Titan.

 

This approach to Titan is very different from all conventional in situ resource utilization concepts, and will achieve a highly scientifically valuable return to planetary science, astrobiology, and understanding the origin of life, which is an order of magnitude more. difficult than other sample return missions, explains Steven Oleson of NASA's Glenn Research Center in a statement to argue this mission approach.

 

Usually missions to distant celestial objects need to bring enough propellant for the return trip (which means a lot of extra mass and higher costs) or have a nuclear battery that can provide power for several years.

 

As can be seen in the illustration, the new approach would consist of a lander and an ascent vehicle. Once they landed on Titan's surface, they could aid the Dragonfly mission by receiving samples collected by the quadcopter.

 

Using resources collected in situ, the lander could provide liquid methane and liquid oxygen fuel (created from local ice) for the ascent vehicle. This vehicle would then be loaded with samples collected by Dragonfly and then taken back to Earth.

 

By not carrying its own propellant, the mission's sample return element would have a lower total mass and therefore cost less to launch.

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