Two New Missions to Explore the Early Solar System
We’ve got big science news…!
We’ve just added two more science missions to our lineup! The two selected missions have the potential to open new windows on one of the earliest eras in the history of our solar system – a time less than 10 millions years after the birth of our sun.
The missions, known as Lucy and Psyche, were chosen from five finalists and will proceed to mission formulation.
Let’s take a dive into each mission…
Lucy, a robotic spacecraft, will visit a target-rich environment of Jupiter’s mysterious Trojan asteroids. Scheduled to launch in October 2021, the spacecraft is slated to arrive at its first destination, a main asteroid belt, in 2025.
Then, from 2027 to 2033, Lucy will explore six Jupiter Trojan asteroids. These asteroids are trapped by Jupiter’s gravity in two swarms that share the planet’s orbit, one leading and one trailing Jupiter in its 12-year circuit around the sun. The Trojans are thought to be relics of a much earlier era in the history of the solar system, and may have formed far beyond Jupiter’s current orbit.
Studying these Trojan asteroids will give us
valuable clues to deciphering the history of the early solar system.
The Psyche mission will explore one of the most intriguing targets in the main asteroid belt – a giant metal asteroid, known as 16 Psyche, about three times farther away from the sun than is the Earth. The asteroid measures about 130 miles in diameter and, unlike most other asteroids that are rocky or icy bodies, it is thought to be comprised of mostly metallic iron and nickel, similar to Earth’s core.
Scientists wonder whether psyche could be an exposed core of an early planet that could have been as large as Mars, but which lost its rocky outer layers due to a number of violent collisions billions of years ago.
The mission will help scientists understand how planets and other bodies separated into their layers early in their histories. The Psyche robotic mission is targeted to launch in October of 2023, arriving at the asteroid in 2030, following an Earth gravity assist spacecraft maneuver in 2024 and a Mars flyby in 2025.
Get even more information about these two new science missions HERE.
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