Categories: Science
| On 2 months ago

NASA’s Lucy mission to Trojan Asteroids: Here is everything you need to know

By Aswin Kumar

NASA’s Lucy mission launched early Saturday from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Lucy will travel approximately a billion miles and take off aboard the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket.

Lucy’s main mission lasts almost 12 years and will visit eight asteroids, a main-belt asteroid, and seven Trojans, which have shared an orbit with Jupiter at the planet’s Lagrangian points as it orbits the sun for billions of years.

Lagrange points are locations around the orbit of a planet where the gravitational pull of the planet and the sun and the motion of the orbit combine in equilibrium.

According to scientists, asteroids are believed to be remnants of the original material that formed the outer planets, and their study will give them important clues about how the solar system formed.

No other space mission in history has launched in independent orbits around the Sun to so many different destinations, NASA notes.

Lucy is over 51 feet wide and has two huge solar panels that are needed to power the spacecraft, has a high-gain antenna necessary for communication with the earth, which is located on the body of the spacecraft.

In addition, the Lucy Thermal Emission Spectrometer (L’TES) will measure the asteroids’ surface temperature by observing the thermal infrared spectrum, the Lucy Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (L’LORRI) high-resolution, panchromatic visible camera will provide detailed surface images, and L’Ralph has an infrared imaging spectrometer that will reveal absorption lines that service as fingerprints for different silicates, ices, and organics.

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Lucy will also be able to track the asteroids using its terminal tracking cameras (T2CAM) as it passes within 600 miles of each target.

Plus, Lucy carries a large artificial diamond that will split light beams in its far-infrared spectrometer instrument and will operate farther from the sun than any previous solar-powered spacecraft.

Lucy was named after a petrified human ancestor discovered in Ethiopia in 1974 and given the name Lucy.

“To be out here this morning is absolutely mind-expanding… to see what the creativity of the human mind can do,” said paleoanthropologist Donald Johanson, who found the fossil.

Lucy will finish the mission in a stable orbit, traveling from near Earth’s orbit to the Trojan swarms.

“The team has carefully planned so that Lucy will not hit the Earth or contaminate any place that might have life for well over 100,000 years,” NASA wrote on its website.

“If no future humans collect Lucy as a historical artifact of the early days of Solar System exploration, then Lucy’s orbit will eventually become unstable, and Jupiter will most likely send the spaceship into the sun or fling it out of the Solar System,” the space agency further added.

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Aswin Kumar

A creative science nerd! Buy me a coffee: buymeacoffee.com/aswinkumar

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