|(Left) An artist’s conception of the Lucy spacecraft flying by the Trojan Eurybates – one of the six diverse and scientifically important Trojans to be studied. Trojans are fossils of planet formation and so will supply important clues to the earliest history of the solar system. (Right) Psyche, the first mission to the metal world 16 Psyche will map features, structure, composition, and magnetic field, and examine a landscape unlike anything explored before. Psyche will teach us about the hidden cores of the Earth, Mars, Mercury and Venus.
(Photo: SwRI and SSL/Peter Rubin)
Topics: Asteroids, NASA, Planetary Science, Space Exploration
NASA will embark on two missions it says could unlock secrets to how our solar system was formed.
The Lucy and Psyche missions — both robotic, unmanned endeavors controlled from Earth — will take us back to the time 10 million years after the sun was born.
Lucy will visit the Trojan asteroids of Jupiter when it launches in October 2021. Scientists suspect the asteroids, currently caught in the largest planet's 12-year orbit around the sun, may have existed in the beginnings of the solar system and before Jupiter's orbit.
Lucy's principal investigator Harold F. Levison claims the mission will yield other-worldly insight into our universe.
"Because the Trojans are remnants of the primordial material that formed the outer planets, they hold vital clues to deciphering the history of the solar system," he explained. "Lucy, like the human fossil for which it is named, will revolutionize the understanding of our origins."
But don't wait up, Lucy's first stop won't come until 2025 when it arrives at a main belt asteroid. It will examine the Trojans from 2027 to 2033.
USA Today: NASA asteroid missions to discover secrets of the universe, Sean Rossman