Nasa’s Lucy, the agency’s first mission that will fly by a total of eight ancient asteroids to study about “solar system’s evolution”, was launched on Saturday. Lucy is Nasa’s “first single spacecraft mission in history to explore so many different asteroids”.
Lucy, which embarked on a 12-year-long mission to fly by one main-belt asteroid and seven Jupiter Trojan asteroids, was launched on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket at 5:34 am local time (9.34 am GMT, 3.04 pm IST) from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
Our #LucyMission launched to explore the Trojan asteroids, which are like ancient time capsules from our early solar system. Plus, @NASA_Orion‘s stage adapter was added to our @NASA_SLS rocket for the #Artemis I launch. More stories this week at NASA: https://t.co/MclRPuo0wz pic.twitter.com/667KKSaqco
— NASA (@NASA) October 16, 2021
“Lucy embodies Nasa’s enduring quest to push out into the cosmos for the sake of exploration and science, to better understand the universe and our place within it,” said Nasa Administrator Bill Nelson. “I can’t wait to see what mysteries the mission uncovers!”
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Named after an ancient fossil of a pre-human ancestor, Lucy will become the first solar-powered spacecraft to venture so far from the sun and will observe more asteroids than any probe before it.
The Lucy mission “will allow scientists to explore two swarms of Trojan asteroids that share an orbit around the Sun with Jupiter”. The Jupiter Trojan asteroids, thought to number well over 7,000, are leftover raw materials from the formation of our system’s giant planets — Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.
“Studying them can reveal previously unknown information about their formation and our solar system’s evolution in the same way the fossilized skeleton of Lucy revolutionized our understanding of human evolution,” Nasa said.
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Lucy’s first encounter will be in 2025 with the asteroid, Donaldjohanson, in the Main Belt, between Mars and Jupiter. The body is named for the discoverer of the Lucy fossil.
Between 2027 and 2033, it will encounter seven Trojan asteroids — five in the swarm that leads to Jupiter, and two in the swarm that trails the gas giant.
Additionally, Lucy will do three Earth flybys for gravity assists, making it the first spacecraft to return to our planet’s vicinity from the outer solar system.
(With AFP inputs)
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