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Alumni Reception

Alumni Reception and Research Presentation

“Dragonfly: NASA's Titan Rotorcraft Lander” Presented by: Professor Jason Barnes, Department of Physics
Wednesday, April 13, 2022
6:30 p.m.
Idaho Water Center – Legacy Pointe
322 E Front Street
Boise, Idaho

Complimentary Appetizers and No-Host Beverages

RSVP to Eric Bennett at

Abstract: NASA's Dragonfly mission was selected for flight in 2019. Its science is prebiotic chemistry, habitability, and a search for chemical biosignatures on Saturn's huge moon Titan. Titan's draw derives from its status as an Ocean World. Like Europa, Enceladus, and potentially other icy outer solar system objects, Titan sports a liquid water ocean beneath its icy outer crust. But unlike those sister Ocean Worlds, Titan's surface and atmosphere contain a large quantity and complexity of carbon compounds. When liquid water develops transiently on Titan's surface -- either from cryovolcanism or impact melt -- water mixes with that surface organic material. Dragonfly will explore the chemistry of the resulting mixture at 80-km-diameter Selk Crater where that water, though now frozen, shows pathways for prebiotic chemistry that may resemble the process through which life formed on Earth 4 billion years ago. In my colloquium, I will discuss the specific scientific experiments that the Dragonfly lander will enable, as well as the instrumentation and exploration strategies that the science team will use to answer our science questions once we land by 2034. Dragonfly is designed to use a Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG) -- a "nuclear battery" power source similar to Cassini and the Mars rover Curiosity. Our RTG will be built and fueled at Idaho National Laboratory before being shipped to Florida for installation on the vehicle before our launch in 2027.

Jason W. Barnes is professor of physics at the University of Idaho and deputy PI of the NASA Dragonfly Mission to Saturn’s moon Titan. Professor Barnes joined the faculty of the University of Idaho Department of Physics in 2008. He earned his bachelor’s degree at the California Institute of Technology, his Ph.D. at the University of Arizona, and completed a post-doctoral fellowship at NASA Ames Research Center.

Professor Barnes has won grant funding from NASA and the National Science Foundation and has authored more than 100 refereed publications. His research focus areas include the study of Titan and extra-solar planets. He is a past chair of the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society. His honors at the University of Idaho include the Presidential Mid-Career Faculty Award and the College of Science Dyess Faculty Fellowship.

Engineering-Physics 331


Research: Astronomy & Planetary Science
View Jason Barnes's profile


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