The launch of Lucy, a space mission led by NASA, is scheduled for October this year. The agency’s objective is to explore a group of objects known as Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, rocks so ancient that they carry clues to the creation of the Solar System and, who knows, the origin of life on Earth. Check details about the project.
Approved in January 2017 as part of the Discovery program, the venture will cost about $ 148 million, spread across all stages of the schedule. Its name was inspired by a fossil of Australopithecus afarensis found in 1974 in the Afar Triangle, Ethiopia, and is expected to bring as important information about remote times as our relative 3.2 million years older did.
For 12 years, Lucy, with her 14 meters from end to end and bigger than a four-story building, will use an instrument capable of measuring the surface temperatures of eight targets.
In addition, two high-resolution cameras and a device that uses infrared light to inspect and identify ice, organic material and different minerals will guarantee the collection of data related to the composition of the specimens.
None of this would have been possible without the Atlas V 401 rocket, responsible for taking it off the ground at Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Supposed remnants of the primordial disk that formed the Sun and the planets, Trojan asteroids, captured by Jupiter’s gravity at some point near the beginning of our system, are divided into two groups. They were all named after famous figures from one of the most well-known battles in Greek mythology.
According to forecasts, in 2025, Lucy will fly over 52246 Donaldjohanson (homage to the paleontologist who discovered the fossil). In this stage, which takes place in the main belt, the teams intend to test the equipment of the mission.
Then, between 2027 and 2033, it will pass through six other Trojan asteroids from three different subclasses (types C, D and P), in addition to two other objects that revolve around each other.
“No other space mission in history has been launched to so many different destinations in independent orbits around our Sun,” celebrates NASA.
Little Lucy from Afar
Donaldjohanson and Eurybates, type C, are rich in carbon and similar to most meteorites found on Earth. In Leucus and Orus, of type D, and Polymele, together with Patroclus and Menoetius (binary system), three of type P, the rich presence of organic elements cannot be ruled out – never analyzed in these conditions by the scientific community and, potentially, catalysts of the appearance of living organisms around here. Water under the rocky surface is common to everyone.
In addition, Patroclus and Menoetius pose an even greater challenge to Lucy, as they will spend much of the period orbiting well above the main ecliptic plane of the Solar System and will only be accessible to the mission in March 2033.
In other words, if everything goes well, there are plenty of reasons to celebrate – and we will be keeping an eye on everything that is about to come as stuck to the ground as the first girl in the world.