NASA Successfully Launches First Mission To Asteroid Approach Probe

NASA Successfully Launches First Mission To Asteroid Approach Probe

The NASA mission to explore a metallic asteroid for the first time was launched on 24 November 2023, and the journey is expected to be around a year long. The goal of the mission is to acquire new insights into the makeup of asteroids and how they originate.


The spacecraft, dubbed the Lucy asteroid approach probe, carries eight scientific instruments to facilitate its mission. These instruments include:

  • High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera
  • Lucy Extreme Ultraviolet (EUVO) telescope -suite of three technology demonstration instruments: the Lucy Compact Imaging Array (LCIA), the Lucy Thermal Emissions Instrument (LTI), and the Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) Spectrograph
  • Gravity Assist Navigation (GAN) experiment - an upgraded version of the original GAN, which was supposed to be aboard the previous mission.

Mission Objectives

The Lucy probe aims to investigate these unconventional asteroids, believed to be rich in organic compounds and water ice. The exploration could lend significant insight into the potential formation of these asteroids and the beginnings of the solar system.

Here is an overview of the mission objectives:

  • Study the diversity of the population of asteroids, particularly those in the Jupiter Trojan population.
  • Determine the composition of the surface of these asteroids to understand their similarity or difference to other asteroids or terrestrial planets.
  • Search for dust grains blasted off the asteroid by impacts and micron-sized dust generated by asteroid collisions
  • Test remote sensing and in-situ exploration techniques to advance asteroid exploration methods.

Launch Details

The probe launched on November 24, 2023, at 12:09 EST from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, using a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 rocket.

Following a 65-minute mission, the probe successfully entered a heliocentric orbit. It will venture as far as Jupiter's orbit to explore five different asteroids.

Future Planning

The probe is expected to reach its first asteroid target, known as Donald Johnson, a binary Trojan asteroid, in April 2024.

The following year, in August 2025, the Lucy mission will explore its second target, which is another binary asteroid, known as Linus Pauling. This asteroid pair orbits each other once every seven hours, with one orbiting the other at a distance of around 1.5 km.

The third asteroid scheduled for investigation is clinically referred to as the Main Belt asteroid (515) Phthia. This asteroid was selected for its unusual composition and is believed to have originated from outside the main asteroid belt.

Following the completion of its mission objectives, the Lucy probe may be used to investigate other asteroids. It is designed to operate until its fuel runs out, which is estimated to be around 2033.


The success of the NASA Lucy asteroid approach probe launch marks an important milestone in the exploration of unconventional asteroids, and the journey ahead is expected to provide valuable insights into their composition and origins.

Through the advanced instrumentation aboard the spacecraft, scientists hope to gain a deeper understanding of these elusive objects, potentially unlocking new information about the formation of the solar system and its organic composition.

Follow future updates to learn about the results of this exciting mission.

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