NASA’s mission is one step closer to Trojan asteroids

NASA’s Lucy mission, led by the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), has reached an important milestone by undergoing a system integration review and clearing the way for spacecraft assembly. This NASA Discovery Program mission will be the first to explore Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids. These are ancient small bodies that orbit with Jupiter and which knowledge is important for understanding the early solar system.

Spacecraft Lucy, during its 12-year mission, will fly by and collect data from these seven primitive worlds as well as from the main asteroid belt. Since the Trojan asteroids are remnants of the primordial material that formed the outer planets, they provide important clues for deciphering the history of the solar system. Lucy will revolutionize our understanding of our origins.

The mission is named after the skeleton of the hominin “Lucy” because studying Trojans could reveal “fossils of planet formation”. Australopithecus itself was named after a song by the Beatles.

Over the past several months, the Lucy team has focused on building and testing all components of the spacecraft, including scientific instruments, electronics, communications and navigation systems, while adhering to all relevant pandemic protocols.

The virtual review was carried out in the week of July 27, 2020, and was attended by all team members and expert groups.

Nobody expected that we would build a spaceship in difficult circumstances. But again, I was impressed with the creativity and flexibility of this team, which was able to overcome any obstacles.

Dr. Hal Levison of SwRI, Principal Investigator

Successful completion of this review means the project can begin assembling and testing the spacecraft in preparation for launch. This assembly phase will begin later this month at Lockheed Martin Space Systems’ facilities in Littleton, Colorado. Due to the disruptions caused by the pandemic, the team revised their schedule so that the components most affected are integrated into the spacecraft at the latest. Thanks to these efforts, the mission was able to commence operations as planned in October 2021.