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Two New Missions to Explore the Early Solar System

Two New Missions to Explore the Early Solar System

We’ve got big science news…!


We’ve just added two more science missions to our
lineup! The two selected missions 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
millions years after the birth of our sun.


The missions, known as Lucy and Psyche, were chosen
from five finalists and will proceed to mission formulation.

Let’s take a dive into each mission…


Lucy, a robotic spacecraft, will visit a target-rich
environment of Jupiter’s mysterious Trojan asteroids. Scheduled to launch in
October 2021, the spacecraft is slated to arrive at its first destination, a
main asteroid belt, in 2025. 


Then, from 2027 to 2033, 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.

Studying these Trojan asteroids will give us
valuable clues to deciphering the history of the early solar system.


The Psyche mission will explore one of the most
intriguing targets in the main asteroid belt – a giant metal asteroid, known as
16 Psyche, about three times farther away from the sun than is the Earth. The
asteroid measures about 130 miles in diameter and, unlike most other asteroids
that are rocky or icy bodies, it is thought to be comprised of mostly metallic
iron and nickel, similar to Earth’s core.


Scientists wonder whether psyche could be an exposed
core of an early planet that could have been as large as Mars, but which lost
its rocky outer layers due to a number of violent collisions billions of years


The mission will help scientists understand how
planets and other bodies separated into their layers early in their histories. The
Psyche robotic mission is targeted to launch in October of 2023, arriving at
the asteroid in 2030, following an Earth gravity assist spacecraft maneuver in
2024 and a Mars flyby in 2025.

Get even more information about these two new
science missions HERE. 

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