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A view of Titan as seen by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. Photo: Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

NASA is going to Saturn's largest moon, Titan. The space agency has selected the Dragonfly mission to learn more about the mysterious world from close range.

Why it matters: Studying Titan for an extended period of time from the world's surface will reveal aspects of the moon that we've only gotten a tantalizing glimpse of in the past. Scientists think that Titan could help unlock the mysteries of how life evolved.

Dragonfly is a drone designed to fly above Titan's surface, dropping down to investigate parts of the moon including its dunes and craters.

  • NASA is planning to launch the spacecraft in 2026, with an arrival at Titan in 2034.
“The instruments on board will help us investigate organic chemistry, evaluate habitability and search for chemical signatures of past or even present life,”
— NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said during the announcement

The big picture: Titan is alien in the most compelling sense. The moon has a thick atmosphere and bodies of liquid ethane and methane on its surface.

The backdrop: This won't be humanity's first visit to Titan. The Huygens lander also touched down on the moon's surface, giving scientists on Earth a brief look.

  • Huygens studied Titan's atmosphere during its descent to the surface, but the lander only survived for a little over an hour after touchdown, beaming home photos after landing.
  • Dragonfly is part of the agency's New Frontiers program that was also responsible for the New Horizon's mission to Pluto, Juno's mission to Jupiter and the OSIRIS-REx mission to an asteroid.

Go deeper

Anti-abortion activists' Supreme Court dreams are coming true

Photo illustration: Annelise Capossela. Photos: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

This is the moment the conservative legal movement has been building toward for decades: The solidly conservative Supreme Court is about to hear two major abortion cases within a month of each other.

Why it matters: All of this is likely to end with significant new restrictions on abortion and a clear path for Republican-led states to win the next big abortion cases, too — the culmination of a long and bitter fight for control of the judiciary.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
4 hours ago - Economy & Business

Trump's volatile return to the stock market

Expand chart
Data: YCharts; Chart: Axios Visuals 

Donald Trump this week became both a meme stock and a social-media entrepreneur at the same time, by announcing that a new company called Trump Media & Technology Group was going to merge with an existing company listed on the stock market.

Why it matters: The medium-term promise of Trump's media company is that it will replace Twitter for anybody wanting to keep track of Trump's messages. The short-term promise is that it can be a hot new speculative vehicle for people wanting to get rich quick in the stock market.

Updated 14 hours ago - World

U.S. airstrike kills senior al-Qaeda leader in Syria, DOD says

A displacement camp near the village of Qah in Syria's northwestern Idlib province. Photo: Ahmad Al-Atrash/AFP via Getty Images

A U.S. airstrike in northwest Syria on Friday killed senior al-Qaeda leader Abdul Hamid al-Matar, U.S. Central Command said in a statement.

Why it matters: Syria serves as a "safe haven" for the extremist group to plan external operations, according to U.S. Army Maj. John Rigsbee.