NASA Unveils Two New Asteroid Missions, To Launch Lucy and Psyche
After the successful launch of OSIRIS-REx, NASA is sending Lucy to two new asteroid missions in the coming years. Last January 5, the agency announced that it has chosen two missions to explore in 2021 and 2023.
The missions called Lucy and Psyche were chosen by the agency to explore the earliest remnants of the solar system. The said missions were chosen from five finalists.
"Lucy will visit a target-rich environment of Jupiter's mysterious Trojan asteroids, while Psyche will study a unique metal asteroid that's never been visited before," Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington said in a press release. "This is what Discovery Program missions are all about -- boldly going to places we've never been to enable groundbreaking science."
Lucy is expected to launch in 2021 with the target arrival to the destination in 2025. The robotic spacecraft will dedicate the mission in exploring six Jupiter Trojan asteroids or those trapped in Jupiter's orbit. These type of asteroids are believed to contain remnants of the older solar system that formed outside Jupiter's orbit.
Experts say that studying Trojan asteroids will give scientists more data about the formation of the Solar System. Lucy is equipped with RALPH and LORRI, the scientific payload that will help the spacecraft perform its mission.
Meanwhile, Psyche will target an interesting metal asteroid called 16 Psyche. The asteroid is three times farther from the Sun compared to Earth. It is believed to be composed of metals like nickel and iron as opposed to the usual rocky and icy asteroids.
"16 Psyche is the only known object of its kind in the solar system, and this is the only way humans will ever visit a core. We learn about inner space by visiting outer space," said Psyche Principal Investigator Lindy Elkins-Tanton of Arizona State University in Tempe in the same report
If everything went well, the second asteroid mission that will launch in 2023 will reach its destination by 2030, according to a report. However, Popular Science reported that some scientists think that NASA is launching way too many asteroid mission, especially with its limited budget.
But in order to understand the universe, historical facts and remnants like those found in asteroids are considered vital. NASA believes that launching the best missions to study the space rock will aid the human race in understanding how the Earth originated as well.