Planetary Radio • Jul 10, 2019

We’re Sending a Flying Machine to Titan

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On This Episode

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Troy Hudson

Troy Hudson is a Planetary Geologist and Instrument Engineer for Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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Elizabeth "Zibi" Turtle

Planetary Scientist at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab and Dragonfly Principal Investigator

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Bruce Betts

Chief Scientist / LightSail Program Manager for The Planetary Society

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Mat Kaplan

Senior Communications Adviser and former Host of Planetary Radio for The Planetary Society

NASA has given the go-ahead for Dragonfly, a flying rotorcraft that will explore Saturn’s mysterious moon Titan. Mission Principal Investigator Elizabeth “Zibi” Turtle helps us celebrate. Troy Hudson tells us about the ongoing effort to rescue the Mole on Mars lander InSight. And Bruce Betts provides the latest on LightSail 2’s attempt to sail on the light of the sun.

Artist's impression of Dragonfly in flight over Titan
Artist's impression of Dragonfly in flight over Titan Image: Johns Hopkins APL
Dragonfly Mission Concept
Dragonfly Mission Concept Dragonfly is a dual-quadcopter lander that would take advantage of the environment on Titan to fly to multiple locations, hundreds of kilometers apart, to sample materials and determine surface composition to investigate Titan's organic chemistry and habitability, monitor atmospheric and surface conditions, image landforms to investigate geological processes, and perform seismic studies. It was selected as one of two possible missions for the next New Frontiers launch opportunity in 2017.Image: NASA
Earth from LightSail 2
Earth from LightSail 2 This image of Earth, looking toward the Caribbean Sea oriented with north at the top, was captured by LightSail 2 on 7 July 2019 at 23:32 UTC. Lens flares are visible in the bottom left and upper right. To the left of Earth, a piece of spectraline that was used to hold the spacecraft's solar panels closed is visible.Image: The Planetary Society / Processed by Seán Doran

This week's question:

With regard to spacecraft, what does ADCS stand for?

To submit your answer:

Complete the contest entry form at or write to us at [email protected] no later than Wednesday, July 17th at 8am Pacific Time. Be sure to include your name and mailing address.

Last week's question:

What are the four formal tracking station locations for LightSail 2? Latitude and longitude not required!


The answer will be revealed next week.

Question from the June 13 space trivia contest:

What does the label of the Mini-DVD on LightSail 2 say? It contains the names of all Planetary Society members and others, along with selfies.


Printed on the LightSail 2 Mini-DVD is “LightSail, Citizen Funded Flight by Light.”