Emery Part of New NASA Mission ‘Lucy’ to Explore Early Solar System

UT’s Joshua Emery is part of a NASA mission that could provide new insight into one of the earliest eras in the history of our solar system.

The project, named Lucy, is one of two recently selected by NASA to be formulated into missions. Emery will serve on the science team for Lucy. This mission, along with another project, Psyche, could provide clues into a time 10 million years after the birth of our sun. NASA plans to launch Lucy and Psyche in 2021 and 2023, respectively.

Emery, the Lawrence A. Taylor Associate Professor of Planetary Science, has worked on other NASA projects. He currently is part of the OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource, Identification, Security—Regolith Explorer), the first US mission to collect a sample of an asteroid and return it to Earth for study.

He also analyzed telescopic data from Kuiper Belt objects—icy bodies that orbit the sun beyond Neptune—for NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft that conducted a flyby of Pluto.

Lucy, a robotic spacecraft, will visit Jupiter’s mysterious Trojan asteroids. Psyche will explore a giant metal asteroid known as 16 Psyche, about three times farther away from the sun than is the Earth.

“I’m really excited about it,” Emery said of the Lucy mission. “I’ve been studying Trojan asteroids for my whole career, and it will be fascinating to finally get a close look at some.”

Lucy will build on the success of NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt, using newer versions of scientific instruments that helped enable the mission’s achievements.

The mission to study Trojan asteroids, relics of a much earlier era in the history of the solar system, will help scientists understand how the solar system formed and evolved into its present state.

CONTACT:

Lola Alapo (865-974-3993, lalapo@utk.edu)