NASA chooses Hopkins mission to Titan, Goddard-led comet probe as finalists for mid-2020s launch

NASA said Wednesday it has chosen two finalists for solar system exploration in the mid-2020s, both of which have ties to Maryland institutions.

A robotic mission will visit either Titan, a moon of Saturn, or a comet known as 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, led by planetary scientist Elizabeth Turtle, is leading the Titan proposal, called Dragonfly. The mission would send a drone-like dual-quadcopter to what is the only known moon in the solar system with a dense atmosphere and stable liquid oceans.

The mission is designed to explore the chemistry and possible habitability of dozens of sites on Titan.

The other proposal is known as the Comet Astrobiology Exploration Sample Return, or CAESAR. It would collect a comet sample and bring it back to Earth to determine the comet’s origin and history. The NASA Goddard Space Flight Center would manage the mission.

“These are tantalizing investigations that seek to answer some of the biggest questions in our solar system today,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, said in a statement.

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