by Heidi Hecht | @Squidoogeek
NASA has selected Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) to spearhead a mission dubbed Lucy to investigate Trojan asteroids that share an orbital path with Jupiter. Referred to as “a unique opportunity” by Dr. Harold F. Levison, a program director and chief scientist for SwRI, the Lucy mission will reach its targets of six Trojans and one main belt asteroid between 2025 and 2033.
SwRI will serve as the principal investigator institution and lead the science investigation. It will also provide services that include mission management, systems engineering and system and mission assurance. Other notable contributions include NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center’s color imaging and infrared mapping spectrometer, Arizona State University’s thermal infrared spectrometer, and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory’s high-resolution visible imager.
As a Discovery mission, Lucy will make use of a reliable spacecraft model built by Lockheed-Martin and equipped with a remote-sensing instrument suite designed to return data on the geology and physical characteristics of primitive asteroids known as Trojans at close range. The diversity of the Trojans may provide clues about the source of volatiles and materials found on terrestrial planets and information about planetary origins.
The mission has been named in honor of the ancient human fossil dubbed Lucy, which provided vital clues about the origin of our species. SwRI scientists such as Dr. Levine hope that the mission will similarly refine our understanding of the evolution of our early solar system.
“Because the Trojans are remnants of the primordial material that formed the outer planets, they hold vital clues to deciphering the history of our solar system,” Dr. Levine explained.
The Lucy mission is set to be launched in 2021. Information is from the Southwest Research Institute’s press release.