NASA announces two new deep space missions: Psyche and Lucy!

So here’s something else to look forward to: today NASA announced two missions to asteroids.  Psyche will visit the asteroid 16 Psyche, a gigantic nickel-iron asteroid so big that astronomers have speculated it could be the core of a destroyed planet.  Lucy, meanwhile, will visit half a dozen Trojans — asteroids co-orbital with Jupiter, swept up into Jupiter’s enormous Lagrange points.  Four of Lucy’s targets are around the Sun-Jupiter L4 point, and the other two are at the L5 point.  (“Points” is a little misleading here, by the way.  There’s actually a vast zone in which lagrangian companions might be found.)

Both are relatively fast and inexpensive Discovery class missions.  The Discovery class missions have an impressive legacy despite their austere nature — NEAR, Mars Pathfinder/Sojourner, Lunar Prospector, Stardust/NeXT, Genesis (which had an unfortunate failure of the sample return capsule), CONTOUR (lost due to an engine failure), MESSENGER, Deep Impact/EPOXI, Dawn, Kepler, GRAIL, and InSight.  These missions also share heritage with New Horizons, as they are slated to use newer versions of some of the instruments first flown on that mission.


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