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Saturday, October 16, 2021

NASA to launch its Lucy spacecraft this week for 12-year mission on Trojan asteroids

NASA has confirmed that its set to launch its latest mission, to explore asteroids, to learn more about the early days of our solar system.

By: Tech Desk | Chandigarh |
October 11, 2021 4:23:35 pm
NASA, NASA mission, NASA Lucy spacecraft, NASA 12-Year Mission, Lucy 12-Year Mission, Lucy asteroid mission, NASA newsThis diagram illustrates Lucy's orbital path. The spacecraft’s path (green) is shown in a frame of reference where Jupiter remains stationary, giving the trajectory its pretzel-like shape. After launch in October 2021, Lucy has two close Earth flybys before encountering its Trojan targets. In the L4 cloud Lucy will fly by (3548) Eurybates (white) and its satellite, (15094) Polymele (pink), (11351) Leucus (red), and (21900) Orus (red) from 2027-2028. After diving past Earth again Lucy will visit the L5 cloud and encounter the (617) Patroclus-Menoetius binary (pink) in 2033. As a bonus, in 2025 on the way to the L4, Lucy flies by a small Main Belt asteroid, (52246) Donaldjohanson (white), named for the discoverer of the Lucy fossil. After flying by the Patroclus-Menoetius binary in 2033, Lucy will continue cycling between the two Trojan clouds every six years. (Image source: Southwest Research Institute/NASA)

NASA has confirmed that it is set to launch its latest mission which will look to explore asteroids, to learn more about the early days of our solar system. The Lucy spacecraft is currently scheduled to liftoff on October 16 at 2:34 am Pacific Time (3:04 pm IST October 17).

If you wish to experience the historic launch event, you will be able to watch it online via NASA TV. NASA says that the mission will entail, the spacecraft to complete a 12-year journey to eight different asteroids.

The spacecraft will travel to the outer solar system during the course of the 12-year mission. Lucy will explore ancient asteroids, known as Trojan asteroids that are said to circle the Sun.

NASA has described Trojan asteroids as the “time capsules from the birth of our solar system”. Trojan asteroids “circle the Sun in two swarms, with one group leading ahead of Jupiter in its path, the other trailing behind it.” They have been named after characters in Greek mythology.

The Trojan asteroids are said to orbit in the same path as the largest planet in our solar system which is Jupiter. Lucy is set to be the first spacecraft to visit these asteroids in this region of our solar system.

The spacecraft will aid in procuring data, which will in turn help scientists delve deep into the solar system’s ancient history.

“With Lucy, we’re going to eight never-before-seen asteroids in 12 years with a single spacecraft. This is a fantastic opportunity for discovery as we probe into our solar system’s distant past”, Tom Statler, NASA scientist said in a statement, while speaking about the project.

NASA hopes that the Lucy mission will “revolutionise our knowledge of planetary origins and the formation of the solar system.”

As part of the 12 years-long mission, Lucy will explore a “record-breaking number of asteroids.”

“The spacecraft will fly by one asteroid in the solar system’s main belt and seven Trojan asteroids. Lucy’s path will circle back to Earth three times for gravity assists, which will make it the first spacecraft ever to return to our planet’s vicinity from the outer solar system,” NASA said in a statement.

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