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NASA Sets 2021 Launches For Solar System Exploration

NASA Sets 2021 Launches For Solar System Exploration

Lucy will target Trojan asteroids captured by Jupiter's gravity, sharing same orbit around sun like Jupiter.

NASA says the spacecraft is expected to be launched in 2023, pass by Mars two years later, and arrive at Psyche in 2030. SSL will work for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to support Principal Investigator Dr. Lindy Elkins-Tanton, director of Arizona State University's (ASU) School of Earth and Space Exploration, in a mission to research the 210 km diameter asteroid, which is believed to be the only place in the solar system where a metal planetary core can be studied. According to the space agency, 16 Psyche is the only known asteroid of its kind floating in space and humanity's only way of visiting a core.

Scientists at NASA took a special interest in the Lucy space mission since they think exploring the Trojan asteroids could provide them with some valuable pieces of information on how planets were formed. "Lucy, like the human fossil for which it is named, will revolutionize the understanding of our origins".

If everything goes as advertised in the release, "Lucy will study the geology, surface composition and bulk physical properties of these bodies at close range".

Lucy will visit six Jupiter Trojan asteroids - asteroids trapped by the gravity of Jupiter, sharing the planet's orbit - between 2027 and 2033.

Jupiter's orbital period - the planet's "year" - lasts for some 12 Earth years.




The mission will fly near 6 asteroids which are relics of solar system.

Neocam is the third one selected in the discovery program. That mission will launch in October 2021.

The missions, announced on January 4, are part of NASA's Discovery Program for planetary exploration. This is aided by the fact that their development costs usually are capped. They are managed for NASA's Planetary Science Division by the Planetary Missions Program Office at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

"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", said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

This project, known as Psyche, went from concept to reality on Wednesday (Jan. 4), when NASA announced the mission's official selection as part of the agency's Discovery Program, which develops relatively low-priced robotic exploration missions.

NASA has selected two missions that 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 million years after the birth of our sun.

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