NASA Lucy Mission: Trip to Jupiter's Mysterious Trojan Asteroid Swarm
By: Pragya Singh
‘Lucy’, the first NASA mission to study Jupiter's Trojan asteroid swarm, is all set to launch on October 16 from the Cape Canaveral Space Force station in Florida. The agency said in a statement on September 28.
Lucy is designed to be a 12-year-long mission that will allow scientists to study the two groups of rocky bodies: one that orbits around the Sun, ahead of Jupiter, and the other group that trails behind the planet.
These asteroids, known as the Trojan swarm, are the leftovers of the primordial materials responsible for the formation of Jupiter and other planets in the solar system. According to SpaceNews, the scientists believe that the Trojans could be rich in water and other volatile substances covered by an insulating blanket of dust.
They plan to go and analyse the asteroids up close to find out the information regarding the solar system's planet formation - about 4.5 billion years ago - and the factors leading to their current configuration.
CNN dispatched that Lucy will incorporate boosts from Earth's gravity to reach the Trojan swarms. During its 12 year journey, the spacecraft will travel nearly four billion miles. The spacecraft will fly past eight asteroids. The journey from the central belt between Mars and Jupiter will take place in 2025 and to seven Trojans from 2027 to 2033. The mission ‘Lucy' is christened after an ancient fossil: a human skeleton that lived more than three million years ago. Tom Stalter, the mission's project scientist at NASA, said to NBC, “This is a fantastic opportunity for discovery as we probe into our solar system's distant past.”
Lucy team members have been preparing the spacecraft for launching at NASA's Kennedy space centre in Florida for the past eight weeks. The engineers are performing several mechanical, electrical and thermal checks. In addition, they have filled the spacecraft with 725 kilograms of liquid hydrazine and liquid oxygen.
The Lucy mission will be the first solar-powered initiative to observe more asteroids. The total cost of the task is $981 million.
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