Br. Bob Macke has become a collaborator on the science team for NASA’s Lucy mission
Br. Bob Macke of the Vatican Observatory Foundation has recently become a non-funded participating scientist on NASA’s Lucy mission to Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids. The Lucy mission will be the first spacecraft to visit Trojan asteroids, which are asteroids that orbit at the same distance as Jupiter at its L4 and L5 Lagrangian points (60 degrees ahead of and behind Jupiter).
Lucy is scheduled to launch in October of 2021 – it will perform several Earth gravity-assists, taking 12 years to travel to seven different asteroids: including the Main Belt asteroid (52246) Donaldjohanson (named after the person who discovered the Australopithecus skeleton named Lucy) and six Trojan asteroids – two of those a binary asteroid pair!
The Lucy mission will visit more independent destinations than any other space mission in history.
Many of the Trojan asteroids are different from the main-belt asteroids, and may have been captured by Jupiter early in the history of the solar system. Some may be related to Kuiper belt objects.
This is the first time that a member of the Vatican Observatory has been on the science team for a space mission. Perhaps also a first for Jesuits as well!
Lucy Mission Overview: https://planetarymissions.nasa.gov/missions/Lucy/overview
Goddard Press Release: https://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/lucy-the-first-mission-to-jupiter-s-trojans
Lucy information from the 47th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (2016): https://www.hou.usra.edu/meetings/lpsc2016/pdf/2061.pdf