NASA confirms discovery missions to study more bizarre heavenly bodies in the solar system. The agency has green lit the NASA mission set to investigate Jupiter's Trojan asteroids as well as the strange metal asteroid, 16 Psyche, which is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
The Lucy mission is set to study six Trojan asteroids orbiting in tandem with Jupiter, from at least 6,178 Jupiter Trojans discovered as of 2015. The reconnaissance mission of the primitive asteroids will hold important clues in studying the history of the solar system and how the planets were formed.
The Lucy spacecraft, which is scheduled to launch in 2021, will include imaging and mapping instruments. It will also have a remote-sensing instrument suite which can investigate the surface composition, geology and other physical properties of the asteroids.
"Understanding the causes of the differences between the Trojans will provide unique and critical knowledge of planetary origins, the source of volatiles and organics on the terrestrial planets, and the evolution of the planetary system as a whole," Dr. Catherine Olkin, deputy principal investigator of the mission from SwRI said according to NASA.
On the other hand, another NASA mission, the Psyche probe is set to study the 16 Psyche. It is expected to be on its way to space in 2023. The mission was proposed by a team of researchers from Arizona State University. Lead proponent Lindy Elkins-Tanton said the mission will give opportunity for the study of a different type of world -- not rock, gas or ice but metal, cited Science Alert.
16 Psyche is one of the most massive asteroid in the asteroid belt. Astronomers believed it might be the core of an ancient planet and its outer crust was destroyed. In 2016, NASA found the presence of water ions in the asteroid. The NASA mission to 16 Psyche is expected to reach the asteroid 2030. Meanwhile, the Lucy mission is expected to get to its first of six destinations by 2025.