A NASA mission known as Lucy, that had been proposed so the space agency could thoroughly study six asteroids that form Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, has not only been officially approved, it has also been handed both a budget and a schedule after a review of the plan turned out to be successful.
As Space reported, NASA is planning to begin their Lucy mission in October, 2021, and it will continue over a period of 12 years. As part of its research, it will be approaching an object located in the asteroid belt and will then turn its attention to six of the asteroids near Jupiter.
Hal Levison, who is an astronomer at the Southwest Research Institute, and also the principal investigator of the Lucy mission, is elated that NASA has approved plans to study the Trojan asteroids, and explained that with a budget now in place, scientists can finally begin building the Lucy spacecraft.
“Up until now this mission has entirely been on paper. Now we have the go ahead to actually cut metal and start putting this spacecraft together.”
NASA has chosen the name Lucy in reference to the fossil specimen known as Australopithecus afarensis, who are very early relatives of the human species. The name is certainly fitting, as scientists believe that by learning more about the Trojan asteroids around Jupiter they will also get a clearer picture of our solar system during its infant stages.
Now that the Key Decision Point C has been approved for the Lucy Mission, NASA’s Critical Design Review is up next, and according to Phys.org, this phase will include coming up with the right system design for the program. Once a review of its design has also been approved, those involved on the project team can begin to build the spacecraft itself.
Adriana Ocampo, Lucy’s program executive at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., congratulated everyone involved on the new project and suggested that the study of Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids will bring about a much more thorough understanding of the universe we inhabit.
“Today’s confirmation of Lucy is a key step towards better understanding the role that small bodies played in the formation of the Solar System and life on Earth. We congratulate the entire team for their hard work.”
With NASA programs like the Dawn mission and OSIRIS-REx also dedicated to understanding asteroids, the upcoming 2021 launch of the Lucy mission will help to further this understanding as we learn more about Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids.