The Agency plans to send a drone helicopter the moon to search for the building blocks of life.
The eight-rotor drone will be launched to the Saturnian moon in 2026 and arrive in 2034. According to Space.com, the probe will then spend at least 2.5 years cruising around the 3,200-mile-wide Titan, making about two dozen flights that cover a total of about 110 miles.
It is the only celestial body besides our planet known to have liquid rivers, lakes and seas on its surface, though these contain hydrocarbons like methane and ethane, not water. "Visiting this mysterious ocean world could revolutionize what we know about life in the universe", said NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine. "This cutting-edge mission would have been unthinkable even just a few years ago, but we're now ready for Dragonfly's fantastic flight". "We don't know the steps that were taken on Earth to get from chemistry to biology, but we do know that a lot of that prebiotic chemistry is actually happening on Titan today".
Dragonfly will gradually venture from dune fields to a large crater so scientists can take measurements at different spots, analyzing the moon's surface and atmosphere. Additionally, instruments will search for chemical evidence of past or extant life, according to the statement.
The craft will first land on Titan's equator to explore the region, and will then move around the area in short trips.
The hope is the lander will eventually fly more than 175 kilometres.
Another similarity between Earth and Titan is the atmosphere, which is rich in nitrogen.
"It's remarkable to think of this rotorcraft flying miles and miles across the organic sand dunes of Saturn's largest moon, exploring the processes that shape this extraordinary environment", said Zurbuchen. The weather is more complex, with surface processes combining complex organics, energy and water which could have brought life to Earth during its early history.
Titan is the second largest natural satellite in the solar system, and even bigger than Mercury, the planet closest to the Sun. As it orbits Saturn, it is about 886 million miles (1.4 billion kilometers) away from the Sun, about 10 times farther than Earth.
"[Dragonfly] has so much potential for fundamental science", said Elizabeth Turtle, a planetary scientist at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physical Laboratory who is also the principal investigator for the mission.
The mission to Saturn's satellite is part of NASA's "New Frontiers" program, which supports scientific missions that have been identified as priorities within the solar system.
This mission is the first time that NASA will fly a multi-rotor on another planet.
"Now we can add Titan to the list of enigmatic worlds NASA will explore".