NASA Announces Plans To Study The Early Solar System By 2020sBy Emily Marks, UniversityHerald Reporter
NASA has announced two missions that will kick off by the 2020s. The space agency will be sending two spacecrafts to study the early solar system. In its official website, NASA confirmed that it has chosen two missions with the potential to help scientists better understand the earliest periods of our solar system. The missions named Lucy and Psyche will be launched in 2021 and 2023, respectively.
Associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate Thomas Zurbuchen explained that Lucy will be visiting one of Jupiter's mysterious Trojan asteroids. Psyche, on the other hand, will be landing on a metal asteroid which will be studied for the first time ever.
Lucy is expected to launch in Oct. 2021. Its estimated time of arrival at its first destination will be in 2025. Lucy will explore six of Jupiter's Trojan asteroids from 2027 to 2033. Jupiter's gravity traps these asteroids in two swarms that is sharing the planet's orbit. These asteroids are believed to be remnants of an earlier era in the solar system's history and are thought to have been formed beyond Jupiter's current orbit.
Harold F. Levison, principal investigator of the Lucy mission from the Southwest Research Institute, added that Trojans are highly likely to provide vital clues to helping us understand the history of the solar system. Lucy will be basing on the success of NASA's New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt.
Psyche will be exploring a giant metal asteroid, named as 16 Psyche. It is approximately three times farther away from the sun than the Earth. It is expected to help scientists understand how planets and other celestial bodies separated into different layers. This includes cores, mantles and crusts.
According to the New York Times, the Psyche mission may provide clues about Earth and its core. This is important because our home planet's core is not something that scientists can observe directly.