Watch: NASA drone will explore possibility of life on one of Saturn's moons

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By Sinead Barry  with Associated Press
Watch: NASA drone will explore possibility of life on one of Saturn's moons
Copyright  NASA TV and Associated Press

A drone is going to be sent to explore Titan, Saturn's largest moon, NASA announced on Thursday.

The aircraft, named Dragonfly, will fly from location to location to see if the icy moon can support microbial life. 

"The ultimate goal is to get to Selk crater, which is a really large crater on Titan — it's about 50 miles (80km) across," said NASA Lead Program Scientist for New Frontiers, Curt Nieber. 

"We want to get there because we think that at Selk crater the three ingredients you need for life were mixed," he continued.

Before life evolved the landscape on Earth was in fact quite similar to that of Titan today. The moon supports lakes, mountains, and an ocean of its own, making it very chemically similar the Earth, said Nieber.

"We can't go back in time on Earth and learn the lessons about the chemistry that eventually led to life but we can go to Titan and we can pursue those questions," said Nieber.

As its name suggests, the structure of the aircraft resembles that of a dragonfly. The drone sports cameras looking forward and downwards, which will send images back to Earth. Those watching will feel as if they are a dragonfly zooming around this alien planet, Neiber added.

Although Dragonfly is set to launch in 2026, the drone will not reach Titan until as late as 2034.

Video editor • Nathalie Texier