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Technology & Entrepreneurship

NASA Travels Through Time With Some San Antonio Tech

NASA / Southwest Research Institute
Artist conception of Lucy Spacecraft

UPDATED 6 PM 1.4.16

NASA announced Wednesday that San Antonio-headquartered Southwest Research Institute's asteroid mission was selected to be the space agency's 13th Discovery space flight. The Lucy mission hopes to unlock the secret of the early solar system by traveling to Jupiter's Trojans.

Lucy mission principal investigator Harold Levison says the Trojan asteroids are the best chance to look back in time for our outer solar system because they are the remnants of the stuff that made up those planets. 

"These small bodies really represent the fossils of how the planets formed. Studying these in the asteroid belt case taught us about how the inner planets formed. What Lucy's going to do is a similar thing but for the outer planets," says Levison.

He describes the Trojans as both asteroids and small worlds whose distinct variety and proximity allow for the opportunity to collect a vast amount of information on the physical characteristics, structure and composition of each. He says that in the history of unmanned asteroid exploration only eight objects have been studied. 

"And that has revolutionized our understanding of the solar system. Lucy - in one mission - will study almost as many Trojans as main belt asteroids have been studied to date," he says.

The Lockheed Martin spacecraft - which is about the weight of a Chevy Malibu - will travel nearly 400 million miles to fly by the six Trojans and one main belt asteroids. There are a million Trojans and they share an orbit with Jupiter

Updated 1 PM 1.4.16

NASA will be exploring the early solar system with some San Antonio tech. 

The space agency announced today that it has selected San Antonio-based Southwest Research Institute to take it to Jupiter's Trojan Asteroids. 

The mission is one of two selected from five proposals. Nicknamed Lucy, it includes a robotic spacecraft. The mission is described in the below NASA promotional video.
"These missions will help us learn about the infancy of our solar system," says the video's narrator.

Lucy will build on the success of the New Horizons mission to Pluto another Southwest Research Institute mission.

Lucy will launch in October 2021 and arrive at the main asteroid belt in 2025.