In October 2021, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) proclaimed that it is geared up to launch its newest mission - Lucy spacecraft - to explore an up-close view of Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids and understand more about the initial years of our solar system. At present, the Lucy spacecraft is planned to lift-off on October 16, 2021, at 2:34 am Pacific Time (3:04 pm IST October 17).
People willing to be a part of this historic launch event can watch it online on NASA TV. NASA states that this new mission will require a 12-year timespan for the spacecraft to complete its journey to 8 unique asteroids.
The spacecraft is planned to cover the exterior of the solar system throughout the 12-year operation. Lucy will explore prehistoric asteroids, called as Trojan asteroids, that are believed to orbit the Sun.
According to the NASA, these Trojan asteroids are “time capsules from the origin of the solar system”. The Trojan asteroids orbit the Sun in two groups, with one cluster leading in front of Jupiter in its track, and the other group trailing after it. These asteroids have been titled after the characters in Greek mythology.
The Trojan asteroids are assumed to be orbiting in the same track as the Jupiter, which is the biggest planet in our solar system. The Lucy is claimed to be the first ever spaceship to visit these asteroids in this area of the solar system. The mission is aimed to obtain data which can in turn aid researchers in diving deep into the history of the ancient solar system.
Tom Statler, one of the scientists from the NASA, stated that with Lucy, we are heading for 8 different asteroids, which were never ever seen before anytime. Using this single spacecraft we are going to explore these asteroids during the period of 12 years. This is an amazing opportunity for new researches as we dive deep into the solar system’s distant history.
NASA expects that this 12-year mission will revolutionize our understanding of the origin of planets and the creation of the solar system. During this 12 years-long mission, the spacecraft will investigate a huge number of asteroids.
NASA revealed that Lucy will fly by one asteroid in the main belt of the solar systems and 7 Trojan asteroids. Lucy’s path will orbit back to the Earth 3 times for gravity assists, which will attain the title of - the first ever spacecraft to return to the Earth’s vicinity from the outer solar system.