The Lucy Mission will be the first spacecraft to explore the Jupiter Trojan asteroids. These small bodies orbit the Sun at the same distance as Jupiter near the L4 and L5 Lagrange points that lead or follow Jupiter in its orbit. These asteroids were captured at the close of an early, chaotic phase of giant planet migration. The Lucy mission will test the hypothesis that the Trojans are a mixture of planetesimals that formed in the outer protoplanetary disk and were subsequently scattered inward. In this way we can think of the Trojans as a kind of fossil record of the solar system preserved in a relatively accessible location for more than 4 billion years.
The Lucy spacecraft will fly by 8 different asteroids during a 12-year mission, a record! During the flybys, Lucy will train its cameras and spectrometers on these bodies to help uncover clues that can help piece together their origins and subsequent histories including collisions, heating and other chemical processes. The Lucy spacecraft launched on October 16 to begin its epic journey of exploration.
Dr. Keith Noll is the Project Scientist for the Lucy mission. Dr. Noll studies asteroids in the solar system using instruments like the Hubble Space Telescope, the Keck telescope, and the just-launched James Webb Space Telescope. He has been at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center since 2011 and before that was at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. He obtained a B.S. in Physics from St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia, an M.S. in Physics from the University of Illinois, and his Ph.D. in Planetary Science from Stony Brook University.