Lucy Will Be Ready By 2021; NASA's Discovery Program To Study The Trojan Asteroids

First Posted: Jan 10, 2017 03:28 AM EST

The Lucy asteroid mission to study the group of Trojan asteroids orbiting around planet Jupiter was sanctioned under NASA's Discovery Program earlier this month. The mission involves sending space probes to study the six asteroids belonging to the Trojan asteroids group to gather more information about the formation of Jupiter and the solar system.

NASA selected professor Dan Britt from the University of Central Florida to lead the team, which is to explore all the oldest asteroids of the solar system. Professor Britt has made remarkable contributions in two previous NASA science missions, Orlando Sentinel reported.

"It should be a lot of fun," Britt said. "This mission has six flybys of the asteroids because of its trajectory and it has relatively low risks. Given the information we will be able to collect, it is quite an attractive mission," he added.

Lucy and Psyche were selected under NASA's Discovery Program to study asteroids and the formation of planets. Lucy is expected to be launched ahead of Psyche, and it seems the team responsible for it is already on the job.

SpaceFlight Insider reported, Harold Levison, planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute, will be the principal investigator of the mission.

"This is a unique opportunity," Levison said. "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. Lucy, like the human fossil for which it is named, will revolutionize the understanding of our origins," he further said.

The Lucy asteroid mission has a total budget estimate of around $450 million, and the spacecraft to be employed in the mission will be built by Lockheed Martin.

Guy Beutelschies, Director of Interplanetary Systems, Lockheed Martin Space Systems, said that, "This is a thrilling mission as the Jupiter Trojan asteroids have never been studied up close." He further added, "The design of the spacecraft draws from the flight-proven OSIRIS-REx spacecraft currently on its way to a near-Earth asteroid. This heritage of spacecraft and mission operations brings known performance, reliability and cost to the mission."

The mission will be launched under the aegis of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. The initiative taken by the organization in rescaling the previously achieved success in NASA's Discovery Program is a welcome initiative, experts say.

See Now: NASA's Juno Spacecraft's Rendezvous With Jupiter's Mammoth Cyclone

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