NASA to send two probes to explore Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids

NASA to send two probes to explore Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids

NASA has announced two new space missions to investigate two strange asteroids that share an orbit with Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system.

Announced as part of its Discovery Program, the two space missions, called Psyche and Lucy, will explore two of the solar system’s most strange space rocks. The spacecraft “Lucy” will explore the so-called Trojan asteroids, and the spacecraft Psyche will explore a huge metallic asteroid known as 16 Psyche.

Scientists say the nearly 130-mile-wide metallic asteroid “the 16 Psyche” is the core of an ancient planet that might be equivalent to Mars in size. Fierce collisions happened billions of years ago probably removed the layers of that planet that once lay atop the current metallic object.

Mission scientists said in a statement, “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 and Psyche are scheduled to be launched in October 2021 and October 2023, with expected arrival at their respective destinations sometime in 2027 and 2030, respectively.

Many planets like Mars, Neptune, and even Earth have their own Trojan objects, but Jupiter has a massive Trojan swarm unlike those of any other. Widely known as the Jovian Trojans, these objects are organized into two clumps -- one in front of Jupiter and one that trails behind the gas giant.


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