Lucy
Launch Date October 2021
Launch Site Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA
Destination Main Asteroid Belt
Type Orbiter
Status In Development
Nation United States
Alternate Names

Goals

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.

Accomplishments

This mission is in development.

Key Dates

October 2021: Launch

In Depth

Jupiter's swarms of Trojan asteroids may be remnants of the primordial material that formed the outer planets, and serve as time capsules from the birth of our Solar System more than 4 billion years ago. The Trojans orbit in two loose groups that orbit the Sun, with one group always ahead of Jupiter in its path, the other always behind. At these two Lagrange points the bodies are stabilized by the Sun and Jupiter in a gravitational balancing act.

These primitive bodies hold vital clues to deciphering the history of the solar system, and perhaps even the origins of life and organic material on Earth.

Lucy will be the first space mission to study the Trojans.

Lucy will launch in October 2021 and, with boosts from Earth's gravity, will complete a 12-year journey to seven different asteroids a Main Belt asteroid and six Trojans, the last two members of a "two-for-the-price-of-one" binary system. Lucy's complex path will take it to both clusters of Trojans and give us our first close-up view of all three major types of bodies in the swarms (so-called C-, P- and D-types).

The dark-red P- and D-type Trojans resemble those found in the Kuiper Belt of icy bodies that extends beyond the orbit of Neptune. The C-types are found mostly in the outer parts of the Main Belt of asteroids, between Mars and Jupiter. All of the Trojans are thought to be abundant in dark carbon compounds. Below an insulating blanket of dust, they are probably rich in water and other volatile substances.

No other space mission in history has been launched to as many different destinations in independent orbits around our sun. Lucy will show us, for the first time, the diversity of the primordial bodies that built the planets. Lucy's discoveries will open new insights into the origins of our Earth and ourselves.

Additional Resources

NASA: Lucy

Inspiration Links The Beatles, a Fossil and a NASA Mission

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