NASA’s Lucy house probe launched efficiently from Cape Canaveral in Florida early Saturday, the start of a 12-year mission to review Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids.
The uncrewed spacecraft lifted off at 5:34AM ET aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. Lucy despatched its first sign to Earth from its personal antenna to NASA’s Deep Space Network at 6:40AM ET. Scientists imagine the Trojan asteroids, which orbit the Sun alongside the identical path as Jupiter, could maintain clues in regards to the formation of our photo voltaic system. It’s NASA’s first-ever single-spacecraft mission to discover so many various asteroids, the company mentioned.
Lucy is known as for the fossilized human skeleton found in Ethiopia in 1974, which offered key insights into human evolution. The fossil obtained her identify from the Beatles tune “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” which was enjoying on the web site the place excavators discovered her. NASA says Lucy the spacecraft will present insights into our evolution a lot the best way her fossil counterpart did, solely this time on a planetary scale.
Lucy is on an advanced trajectory that can embrace three journeys again towards Earth for gravity assists. First, Lucy will orbit the Sun after which head again towards Earth subsequent yr for a gravity help. That will speed up and direct the craft’s trajectory past Mars’ orbit, when Lucy will head again towards Earth once more for one more gravity help in 2024. This will assist propel the craft towards the Donaldjohanson asteroid in 2025; after that Lucy will head towards the Trojan asteroids, arriving in 2027. Then, after 4 focused fly-bys, Lucy will head again to Earth for a 3rd gravity help in 2031, which can propel it towards the Trojans for one more encounter in 2033.
“We started working on the Lucy mission concept early in 2014, so this launch has been long in the making,” Hal Levison, Lucy principal investigator with the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) mentioned in a press release. “It will still be several years before we get to the first Trojan asteroid, but these objects are worth the wait and all the effort because of their immense scientific value. They are like diamonds in the sky.”