Lucy spacecraft will soon be featured in a cartoon series about the Trojan Asteroids mission. Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
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NASA is planning to embark a spacecraft on a 12-year journey starting next year on a first-of-its-kind mission called Lucy. The Lucy spacecraft will flyby and study distant asteroids in our Solar System as part of a mission to learn more about the origins of our planet and species.

The space agency shared a status update on the upcoming Lucy mission today as the mission team passed a major milestone that puts the launch on schedule for a launch in October 2021.

Here’s how NASA describes the upcoming Lucy mission to study Trojan asteroids:

The Trojans orbit the Sun in two loose groups, with one group leading ahead of Jupiter in its path, the other trailing behind. Clustered around the two Lagrange points equidistant from the Sun and Jupiter, the Trojans are stabilized by the Sun and its largest planet in a gravitational balancing act. These primitive bodies hold vital clues to deciphering the history of the solar system, and perhaps even the origins of organic material on Earth.

Lucy will be the first space mission to study the Trojans. The mission takes its name from the fossilized human ancestor (called “Lucy” by her discoverers) whose skeleton provided unique insight into humanity’s evolution. Likewise, the Lucy mission will revolutionize our knowledge of planetary origins and the formation of the solar system.

As for the mission’s recent milestone, the Lucy team completed a virtual Systems Integration Review at the end of July that paves for the way for the mission to proceed on schedule.

The Systems Integration Review ensured segments, components, and subsystems, scientific instrumentation, electrical and communication systems, and navigation systems are on schedule to be integrated into the system. It confirmed that facilities, support personnel, and plans and procedures are on schedule to support integration.

The next milestone for Lucy before launch will come later this month when a review of “technical health, schedule and cost of the project” is conducted.

This diagram illustrates Lucy’s orbital path.
Credits: Southwest Research Institute

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