NASA is all set for the launch of LUCY next month, a 12-year mission that will first closely observe asteroids in an orbit similar to Jupiter, in an effort to understand how our system forms. Solar.
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Trojan asteroids, of which about 7000 are known, develop around the Sun in two groups, one before Jupiter and the other after it.
During its journey, the spacecraft will first fly over an asteroid in the main asteroid belt around 2025 (between Mars and Jupiter), then seven Trojan asteroids in the following years.
The latter, “although they are located in a very limited region of space, are very different from each other,” Hal Levison, lead researcher on this mission at Southwest Research, explained at a news conference Tuesday. Institute in Boulder, Colorado. “For example, they have very different colors, some are grey, some are red.”
One of the theories is that they formed beyond Jupiter’s orbit before being attracted there, and these colors indicate where they came from.
“What Lucy finds out will give us essential clues about how our solar system formed,” said NASA’s director of planetary science, Lori Glaze.
The ship will reach selected objects only from a distance of 400 to 950 kilometers.
With three scientific instruments on board, as well as a large antenna, the researchers want to study the geology of these asteroids, their composition, as well as their exact density, mass and volume.
The Atlas V rocket responsible for propelling the spacecraft is scheduled to take off from Florida on October 16.
The total cost of the mission, including its 12 years of operation, is $981 million.
The ship was built by Lockheed Martin and is a true “work of art”, said Rich Lippe, program director for the company Lucy.
It includes more than three kilometers of cables and notably giant solar panels, as high as a five-story building from end to end.
The craft will be the first solar powered one to venture away from the Sun, and will observe more asteroids than any other spacecraft before it.
The mission, named Lucy, in reference to the Australopithecus fossil discovered in Ethiopia in 1974 that helped shed light on the evolution of humanity – NASA seeks to shed light on the evolution of the Solar System here.
Researchers who discovered the skeleton were listening to the Beatles song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” at the time. In the blink of an eye, the official logo of the NASA mission was drawn into the shape of a diamond.
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