NASA Current Affairs - 2019
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National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) recently announced its plan to launch Dragonfly drone helicopter to Saturn’s largest moon Titan in search of building blocks of life.
About NASA’s Dragonfly Mission
It is part of space agencies quest to search for building blocks of life and will aim towards collecting samples and examining sites around Saturn’s icy moon, Titan. Dragonfly will launch be launched in 2026 and will arrive at its destination in 2034.
The rotorcraft will fly to dozens of promising locations on icy moon Titan looking for prebiotic chemical processes common on both Titan and Earth.
Dragonfly marks the 1st time NASA will fly a multi-rotor vehicle for science on another planet. It will become 1st vehicle ever to fly its entire science payload to new places for repeatable and targeted access to surface materials.
It has 8 rotors and flies like a large drone.
It will take advantage of Titan’s dense atmosphere which is 4 times denser than Earth.
The instruments attached will search for chemical evidence of past or extant life.
Saturn’s largest moon Titan is the only celestial body besides Earth that is known to have liquid rivers, lakes and seas on its surface, although these contain hydrocarbons like methane and ethane, not water. It is considered to be a richly organic world of its own and is viewed by scientists as an equivalent of very early-era Earth. Thus it can provide clues to how life may have arisen on Earth.
Like Earth’s, Titan’s atmosphere is made mostly of nitrogen (N), but it is 4 times denser.
Titan is 2nd-largest moon in solar system. It has a thick water ice crust, beneath which is an ocean made primarily of water and also its clouds and rains are methane.
European Space Agency (ESA) recently tested a device called Evacuation System Assembly (or LESA), which is designed to assist in astronaut rescue missions on the surface of Moon. As per ESA, it is world’s 1st device aimed to help future incapacitated astronauts.
Among other preparations for NASA’s 2024 Moon mission (Artemis Mission), scientists are testing the Lunar Evacuation System Assembly, or LESA device.
It is developed by European Space Agency (ESA), an intergovernmental organisation of 22 member states dedicated to space exploration.
Feature: LESA is a pyramid-like structure. It is designed in a way to be deployed just by a single astronaut in lunar gravity to rescue an incapacitated crew mate.
Need: On mission Astronauts wear Extravehicular Activities (EVA) suits that are bulky, heavy due to which they do not allow for a full range of movement. Thus while wearing an EVA suit, there is no way that an astronaut could carry their fallen crewmate over their shoulder.
Testing: NASA astronauts are testing LESA under sea. This is because, with its rocky, sandy terrain and warm salty water, the bottom of ocean floor bears much more similarity with lunar surface.
In order to rescue a fallen colleague, LESA can be operated just by a single astronaut thus ensuring a rapid and safe rescue.
LESA can be transported like a golf caddy and placed close to the fallen astronaut, hence enabling an astronaut to lift their crewmate onto a mobile stretcher in less than 10 minutes, before carrying them to safety of a nearby pressurised lander.