One of NASA's stated goals with the Dragonfly mission is to "study astrobiology, prebiological chemistry, and the potential habitability of an extraterrestrial environment."

I would think it would be useful to directly observe environmental samples at a microscopic level to search for examples of living or dead organisms. When viewing their instrument suite however, I see them mention:

a mass spectrometer (Dragonfly Mass Spectrometer or DraMS) to identify chemical components relevant to astrobiology [...] and a variety of cameras (DragonCam) to image Titan’s terrain and help Dragonfly navigate and determine landing areas of scientific interest.

It doesn't seem to me that they have a microscope. Is this correct, and if so, how do they plan to detect and observe microbial life?


1 Answer 1


It should be noted that studying "the potential habitability of an extraterrestrial environment" does not necessarily mean "detect and observe microbial life".

However, Dragonfly appears to have not one but two microscopic cameras in its DragonCam suite (emphasis added):

Dragonfly carries eight scientific cameras: two panorama cameras attached to the high-gain antenna for pointing, two fixed forward-looking cameras, two wide-angle downward-looking workspace cameras boresighted on the left and right sampling sites, and two microscopic cameras with 60 μm pixels focused on the samples to be ingested

From Jason W. Barnes et al. "Science Goals and Objectives for the Dragonfly Titan Rotorcraft Relocatable Lander," 2021 Planet. Sci. J. 2 130

For reference Perseverance's PIXL micro-context camera (MCC) (raw images) has ~50 $\mu$m per pixel scale.


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