Illustration of lucy shuttle in space wth australopithecus afarensis

Lucy in Space Contest

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What the Lucy Mission is all about

The NASA Lucy Mission to the Jupiter Trojan asteroids was named by a Southwest Research Institute team led by Principal Investigator Hal Levison and Deputy Principal Investigator Cathy Olkin in honor of the 3.2-million-year-old human ancestor fossil “Lucy,” discovered by Donald Johanson, Founding Director of the Institute of Human Origins at Arizona State University. 

The Lucy Mission will be the first space mission to explore a group of small asteroids known as the Trojan asteroids. These asteroid groups are outer Solar System asteroids that orbit the sun in the same path as Jupiter—some asteroids are in front of the planet as it orbits, and some asteroids trail the planet as it makes its way around the sun.

asteroid belt imageArtist's conception of the Trojan asteroids orbiting in front of and trailing Jupiter and the Lucy Mission spacecraft. Image courtesy NASA/SwRI.

The gas giant is massive enough that normally it scatters away all asteroids in its vicinity, but, due to the combined gravitational influences of the Sun and Jupiter, these Trojan asteroids have been trapped on stable orbits for billions of years. These asteroids provide a unique, never-before-explored sample of the remnants of our early Solar System.

So—just as the Lucy fossil provided unique insights into humanity’s evolution, the Lucy Mission promises to revolutionize our knowledge of planetary origins and the formation of the Solar System.

Join the mission!

We want to engage you—middle and high school students and teachers—in a contest connecting the human ancestor “Lucy” and the exploration of the some of the oldest objects in the solar system—the Trojan Asteroids or “fossils of the Solar System”—so that you will understand more about the science of our origins and our place in the solar system.

Read more about the fossil skeleton Lucy here

Read more about the Lucy Mission here.

Read about how ASU scientists are designing instruments for the spacecraft here.


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Bibliographic Details

  • Article: Lucy in Space
  • Author(s):
  • Publisher: Arizona State University Institute of Human Origins Ask An Anthropologist
  • Site name: ASU - Ask An Anthropologist
  • Date published: June 29, 2020
  • Date modified: October 15, 2020
  • Date accessed: January 18, 2021
  • Link:

APA Style

. (2020, Jun 29). Lucy in Space. Retrieved January 18, 2021, from

American Psychological Association, 6th ed., 2nd printing, 2009.
For more info, see the APA citation guide.

Chicago Manual of Style

. "Lucy in Space." ASU - Ask An Anthropologist. Published June 29, 2020. Last modified October 15, 2020.

Chicago Manual of Style, 17th ed., 2017.
For more info, see the Chicago Manual citation guide.

MLA Style

. Lucy in Space. ASU - Ask An Anthropologist. June 29, 2020, Accessed 2021 January 18.

Modern Language Association, 8th ed., 2016.
For more info, see the MLA citation guide.

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