Astronomers have long wondered how the solar system was formed. The solar system back then was so much different than how it is today. NASA has to missions planned to study the early solar system.
Two unmanned missions have been planned by NASA to study asteroids. Astronomers see asteroids to be crucial in knowing how the solar system has been formed. The two missions have been named as Lucy and Psyche. The missions will begin 2021 with Lucy and would continue in 2023 with Psyche.
The Lucy mission has been named after one of the earliest hominid fossils found. The Lucy mission will send a spacecraft to study Jupiter's Trojan asteroids. The asteroids are said to be remnants of the early solar system.
Harold Levison, principal investigator for the Lucy mission, said that the mission is vital since the Trojan asteroids hold clues to how the early solar system was. The Psyche mission would be done to investigate a metallic asteroid called 16 Psyche. The metallic asteroid is as much as three times the distance of the Earth from the Sun.
16 Psyche is like the Earth's core, which is composed of iron and nickel. This would make it different from other asteroids found. Scientists think that the asteroid might be the core of an early planet that has lost much of its outer layers, according to NASA. The asteroid is 210 kilometers in diameter.
Psyche principal investigator Lindy Elkins-Tanton from Arizona State University in Tempe said that 16 Psyche is unique in the solar system. She said that it would be a good opportunity to study the core of a planet by studying 16 Psyche. The mission hopes to learn more about the structure of planets, as Phys Org reports.
NASA has great plans for its space program. Aside from the planned manned Mars mission, the agency hopes to have missions to learn more about the solar system. NASA has two missions to study how the early solar system was. NASA has also chosen Venus for its next mission.