NASA’s Lucy mission, which will launch in October 2021 and investigate Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, will help scientists learn more about the origin of the solar system. This is the first mission to Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids that will be carried out by this spacecraft. NASA’s 12-year space mission will visit eight asteroids, including one in the main belt and seven Jupiter trojans, asteroids that orbit the Sun alongside Jupiter.
The primary mission of Lucy will continue for 12 years, making it the longest mission ever undertaken by NASA and will cost approximately $981 million.
The Origin of The Mission’s Name, Lucy
Mission Lucy takes her name from a fossilized human ancestor who was given the name “Lucy” by her discoverers and whose bones offered unprecedented insight into the development of humans. Similarly, the Lucy mission will change understanding of the creation of the solar system and the beginnings of planets.
As part of the mission’s planning, NASA analyzed 750,000 known asteroid orbits, as well as Lucy’s trajectory at the time. A few asteroids with varied chemical compositions were discovered via months of computations, and they would make ideal scientific targets for the expedition.
The spacecraft will monitor eight targets with diameters ranging from about 2 miles (3 kilometres) to 70 miles (113 kilometres).
Mission Lucy: Future Events Timeline
October 16, 2021: Launch from Earth on an Atlas V 401 rocket. To reach the Trojans, it will make two passes above the Earth, taking use of the planet’s gravity to propel itself toward asteroids.
In year 2025: Spacecraft will pass by Donaldjohanson, an asteroid that orbits between Mars and Jupiter in the asteroid belt between the planets Mars and Jupiter. This flyby will be used by the crew to put the spacecraft’s instruments through their paces.
In year 2027: At a gravitationally stable position known as a Lagrange point, Lucy will approach its first swarm of Trojans that precede Jupiter. The spacecraft will initially encounter Eurybates (pronounced “yoo-RIB-a-teez”) and its satellite Queta (“KEH-tah”).
In year 2027: Lucy will fly by Polymele (“pah-li-MEH-lee” or “pah-LIM-ah-lee”)
In year 2028: Spacecraft will approach Leucus (“LYOO-kus” or “LOO-kus”), and Orus (“O-rus”) in November 2028
In year 2033: A third gravitational assist will subsequently propel Lucy to the swarm on the opposite side of Jupiter, at the L5 Lagrange point, where she will meet up with Patroclus and Menoetius.
Why Trojan asteroids of Jupiter?
Trojan asteroids are named for legendary characters from Greek mythology. Most of these objects are relics from the early stages of the solar system’s creation. NASA reports that these Trojan asteroids orbit the sun in two swarms, one before and one after Jupiter. Asteroids were collections of rocks and odd ices when the solar system first formed, but they did not grow into planets as the solar system evolved.
As a result, Scientists think that a closer look at the Trojan asteroids will help them better understand how and why the planets of our solar system originated 4.5 billion years ago.