Mission Lucy: 7 asteroids +1 during a single mission

Mission Lucy: 7 asteroids +1 during a single mission

It was already going to break records by visiting seven asteroids during a single mission, but now NASA’s Lucy mission will incorporate another new destination : a satellite of the first Trojan target , Eurybates.

This first 12-year, 6 billion-kilometer mission to the Trojans will be launched in two years.


Using data from the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), Lucy’s team wants to add a satellite to study the Trojans to their mission. As Hal Levison of the Southwest Research Institute, the mission’s principal investigator, explains:

If I had to bet that one of our destinations had a satellite, this would have been it. Eurybates is considered the largest remnant of a giant collision that occurred billions of years ago. Simulations show that asteroid collisions like the one caused by Eurybates and his family often produce small satellites.

The small object was difficult to detect, in part, because Eurybates is 6,000 times brighter than its satellite. This implies that it is less than 1 kilometer wide, which, if correct, would make it one of the smallest objects a spaceship has ever visited . While the current data is sufficient to confirm the existence of the satellite, Lucy’s team will collect more data from Hubble later this year to better understand the object’s orbit.

The mission is named after the hominid skeleton ‘Lucy’ because studying the Trojans could reveal "planet-forming fossils" – materials that clumped together in the early Solar System to form planets and other bodies. 3 Australopithecus itself, in turn, was named after a Beatles song , "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds".