Lucy, a robotic spacecraft, is scheduled to launch in October 2021 and will visit a target-rich environment of Jupiter's mysterious Trojan asteroids.
The mission is led by Principal Investigator Dr. Harold Levison of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo. According to scientists, the Trojans are remnants of the material that formed the solar system's more distant planets. "Lucy, like the human fossil for which it is named, will revolutionize the understanding of our origins".
The Lucy and Psyche missions - both robotic, unmanned endeavors controlled from Earth - will take us back to the time 10 million years after the sun was born. Some scientists believe it was an exposed core from an early planet, which likely lost its rocky outer layer due to collisions with other space objects. "SSL brings a depth of resources and experience to scientific missions such as the exploration of 16 Psyche and we are committed to demonstrating how we can deliver innovative solutions to USA civilian, defense and intelligence agencies going forward". This asteroid measures 130 miles (210km) in diameter and is thought to be mostly comprised of metallic iron and nickel, similar to Earth's core.
Scientists at NASA believe that there's a chance that the 16 Psyche is actually a stripped metallic core of a planetary object that could've been as large as Mars.
"Humankind has visited rocky worlds and icy worlds and worlds made of gas, but we have never seen a metal world", mission principal investigator Lindy Elkins-Tanton, of Arizona State University, said during a conference call with reporters Wednesday.
Recently the US Space agency, NASA has declared the launch of two new missions.
It is also one of the most massive objects in the asteroid belt containing a little less than 1 percent of the total mass of the entire asteroid belt.
Psyche is also a new robot mission.
"We can not directly image what's going on near objects like black holes and neutron stars, but studying the polarization of X-rays emitted from their surrounding environments reveals the physics of these enigmatic objects", said Paul Hertz, astrophysics division director for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
Same day NASA also announced that Neocam the telescope will explore asteroids that are expected to strike the earth.
Discovery Program class missions like these are relatively low-priced, their development capped at about $450 million.
Its SSL unit in Palo Alto, Calif., will provide a spacecraft platform equipped with a high-power solar electric propulsion system. Each mission focuses on a different aspect of asteroid science to give scientists the broader picture of solar system formation and evolution. It will be launched in 2023 and reach its destination by 2030.