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Lucy spacecraft to launch to Trojan asteroids

Folded spacecraft between two tall halves of a rocket nose in a large clean room.
Employees put together the Lucy spacecraft for launch from Cape Canaveral. The launch date is about for Saturday, October 16, 2021. Picture by way of SwRI.

Lucy spacecraft to launch Saturday

The Lucy spacecraft – named for a well-known fossilized skeleton present in 1974 in Africa – is about to launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Saturday, October 16, 2021. With the assistance of three gravity assists from Earth, Lucy will journey virtually 4 billion miles (6 billion km) in 12 years, exploring one asteroid in the principle asteroid belt and 7 of Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids. The Trojans transfer in Jupiter’s orbit across the solar and have by no means been explored earlier than. And scientists view them as fossils which are left over from the formation of the photo voltaic system.

Our fossilized ancestor referred to as Lucy dates to some 3.2 million years in the past. The skeleton of the fossil Lucy offered distinctive perception into human evolution. Likewise, the Lucy house mission will hopefully present perception into our photo voltaic system’s evolution. Astronomer Hal Levison of the Southwest Analysis Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado, leads the Lucy mission. He spoke about Lucy’s journey to Jupiter’s Trojans and about how the mission bought its title:

The Trojan asteroids are leftovers from the early days of our photo voltaic system, successfully fossils of the planet formation course of. They maintain very important clues to deciphering the historical past of our photo voltaic system. The Lucy spacecraft, just like the human ancestor fossil for which it’s named, will revolutionize the understanding of our origins.

Lucy’s 4-billion-mile journey will take it out to the orbit of Jupiter and the realm of Trojan asteroids, then again in towards Earth for gravity assists thrice. This would be the first time a spacecraft has ever returned to Earth’s neighborhood from the outer photo voltaic system.

Diagram showing the inner solar system, asteroid belt and Jupiter and its orbit, with locations of Trojan asteroids indicated.
The white “donut” represents the asteroid belt. Astronomers use the title Trojans for all of the asteroids collected at Jupiter’s 2 secure Lagrange points. The asteroids transfer in Jupiter’s orbit, 60 levels forward of and behind the enormous planet. By conference, asteroids orbiting in entrance of Jupiter are named for the Greek heroes of the Trojan War. And asteroids trailing behind Jupiter are named for the Trojan heroes. Picture by way of Wikimedia Commons.

Goal: Trojan asteroids

Trojan asteroids are a singular group of rocky our bodies. Left over from the formation of the photo voltaic system, they orbit the solar on both facet of Jupiter. No spacecraft has beforehand explored this assortment of photo voltaic system fossils. Jupiter’s gravity traps these asteroids in two swarms in its orbit, with some forward of the planet and a few trailing behind.

Deputy principal investigator Cathy Olkin stated:

Lucy’s capability to fly by so many targets means that we’ll not solely get the primary up-close have a look at this unexplored inhabitants, however we will even be capable to research why these asteroids seem so completely different. The mission will present an unparalleled glimpse into the formation of our photo voltaic system, serving to us perceive the evolution of the planetary system as a complete.

Bald man with big white beard and woman with short blonde hair, both wearing black.
Hal Levison, principal investigator, and Cathy Olkin, deputy principal investigator, lead the Lucy mission. Picture by way of SwRI.

Launching the Lucy spacecraft

Workforce members for the Lucy mission have spent weeks at NASA’s Kennedy House Heart prepping and training for the launch. Levison stated the spacecraft is prepared, elaborating:

Launching a spacecraft is sort of like sending a baby off to school. You’ve completed what you may to get them prepared for that subsequent massive step on their very own. Lucy is able to fly.

Lucy’s first try at launch might be at 5:34 a.m. EDT (09:34 UTC) on Saturday, October 16. The group will verify in at 1 a.m. (05:00 UTC) to start their run-through of the total launch countdown procedures. If climate or different circumstances delay the October 16 launch, a 23-day launch window will give the group further alternatives to ship Lucy off on its journey.

Lucy spacecraft with two large solar panels in front of large rocky object.
Artist’s idea exhibiting the Lucy spacecraft exploring a Trojan asteroid. Picture by way of SwRI.

Backside line: The Lucy spacecraft is to launch on Saturday, October 16, 2021. It’ll journey to Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, fossils of the photo voltaic system’s formation that lie alongside Jupiter’s orbit.

Via Southwest Research Institute

Read more about the Lucy mission

https://earthsky.org/house/lucy-spacecraft-trojan-asteroids/ | Lucy spacecraft to launch to Trojan asteroids

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