New NASA Mission To Distant Asteroids Will Be ‘Made In Colorado’

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Photo:Lucy spacecraft
In this artist’s concept (not to scale), the Lucy spacecraft is flying by Eurybates, one of the six Trojans asteroids that it will study.

A new NASA mission that will traverse the solar system in pursuit of multiple primitive asteroids will be built and run by Colorado scientists. The mission, which is called "Lucy" after the prehistoric human fossil, will study a group of asteroids known as Trojans. Trojan asteroids orbit in tandem with Jupiter, and are thought to be remnants of the primordial material that formed the outer planets.

The scientific mission will be led by Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, and the spacecraft will be built by Lockheed Martin in Littleton.

Photo: Lucy orbit
This illustration shows the trajectory of NASA’s Lucy mission, which will travel approximately 5 billion miles. Lucy will launch in 2021, fly by the main belt asteroid DonaldJohanson (named for the paleoanthropologist who discovered the Lucy fossil), and then visit six Trojan asteroids from August 2027 to March 2033.

The mission's principal investigator, Hal Levison of SwRI, spoke with Colorado Matters' host Andrea Dukakis.