Sunday, October 22, 2017 | Updated at 3:04 PM ET


NASA's Psyche And Lucy Missions Set To Launch To Study Solar System

First Posted: Jan 06, 2017 11:17 AM EST
NASA's ICON satellite to study ionosphere, space weather

Two unmanned missions to asteroids were recently designed by the US Space Agency NASA to study one of the earliest eras in the history of the solar system. According to NASA press release, they have selected two missions to study the timeless than 10 million years after the birth of the sun.

Lucy and Psyche are the names of the two missions which were chosen to proceed with the mission formulation to study the solar system. Lucy is scheduled to launch in 2021 with a goal to explore the total seven asteroids between 2025-2033. Furthermore, it will also explore six Trojan asteroids that lead and trail Jupiter's orbit at its L4 and L5 Lagrange points.

Psyche, on the other hand, is set to launch on 2023 and will arrive at its namesake asteroid in 2030.

"This is a unique opportunity because the Trojans are remnants of the primordial material that formed the outer planets, they hold vital clues to deciphering the history of the solar system. Lucy, like the human fossil for which it is named, will revolutionize the understanding of our origins," Harold F. Levison, principal investigator of the Lucy mission, said.

According to the Daily Galaxy, Psyche is in charge of exploring the most intriguing targets in the main asteroid belt - the giant metal asteroid known as 16 Psyche. 16 Psyche is a metallic asteroid, a remnant of a planet and about the size of Mars. It is nearly obliterated due to several sustained, large impact events that happened in the Solar System's history.

16 Psyche asteroid measures about 130 miles or 120 kilometers in diameter. Unlike common asteroids that are rocky or icy bodies, 16 Psyche is made of metallic iron and nickel which is similar to the Earth's core.

The two missions will help scientist understand how planets, as well as other bodies, separated into their layers, cores, mantles, and crust. Each mission has its focus depending on the aspect of asteroid science to provide scientists a broader picture of solar system formation and evolution.

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