Future tech Lucy in the sky
this new NASA mission will search the uncharted chunks of space rock within the orbit of jupiter
The Lucy mission will study Trojan asteroids up close
in the first mission of its kind, NASA will venture to jupiter's mysterious trojan asteroids. these space rocks orbit in two groups – one ahead and one behind the gas giant – in a gravitational balancing act that occurs between the Sun and jupiter, also known as a Lagrange point. the mission, named Lucy, was announced in january 2017 as the 13th mission of NASA’s discovery Program, following such missions as inSight, Kepler and MeSSeNGer. this particular mission will be operated by
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, United States and the Southwest research institute in San Antonio, texas.
Although the mission is still in its preliminary design phase the spacecraft will include a fine tuned remote-sensing instrument suite that will carefully study the geology, surface composition, thermal and physical properties, such as the masses and densities, of the trojan asteroids. the suite will include three sets of instruments including imaging and mapping instruments with a colour imaging and infrared mapping spectrometer, a high-resolution visible imager and a thermal infrared spectrometer, designed and built by Goddard, johns hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, United States and Arizona State University in tempe, United States, respectively.
once launched in october 2021, Lucy will undergo a 12-year mission dedicated to studying these primitive bodies, as scientists believe they hold the key to understanding the early years of the Solar System and how the planets formed and evolved, and possibly even the origin of life on earth. the mission was named after the discovery of the remains of a 3.2-million-year-old female hominid as both have the same common goal – to understand our past. Whether by understanding human evolution or understanding the evolution of the Solar System, humanity strives to understand its past in order to influence its future.
Between the years of 2025 and 2033 Lucy will get up close to seven different asteroids, the first of which is in the main asteroid belt, and then make its way out to the trojan asteroids before finishing the mission by observing a rare binary asteroid system. Asteroids are commonly categorised under different ‘types’, such as C-types, P-types, d-types and many others, based on their observed characteristics and compositions. the types specified above are the ones Lucy will study, providing a fine spectrum of analysis and allowing scientists to ascertain whether each type was formed in the main asteroid belt between Mars and jupiter or whether it was originally created in the distant Kuiper belt beyond the orbit of Neptune more than 4 billion years ago.
this spacecraft will do what no other mission before it has done in gaining valuable data on multiple destinations in independent orbits around the Sun and revealing the diversity of the ancient rocks that are residing in the very depths of the Solar System.
“once launched Lucy will undergo a 12-year mission dedicated to studying these primitive bodies”
Lucy’s orbital path (shown in green) will search both Trojan asteroid regions in a pretzel-like trajectoryTrojans L4EarthJupiter L5TrojansLucy