Lucy from Nasa takes off in the sky with diamonds to explore asteroids

Lucy from Nasa takes off in the sky with diamonds to explore asteroids

A NASA spacecraft named Lucy took to the skies with diamonds on a 12-year quest to explore eight asteroids.

Seven of the mysterious space rocks are among the asteroid swarms sharing Jupiter’s orbit, believed to be the pristine remnants of the planetary formation.

An Atlas V rocket lifted off before dawn on Saturday, sending Lucy on a roundabout orbital journey spanning nearly 4 billion miles (6.3 billion km). “I’m just thrilled,” NASA Associate Administrator Robert Cabana said after take off. “This is the coolest mission. “

Lucy is named after the skeletal remains of a 3.2 million-year-old human ancestor, discovered in Ethiopia nearly half a century ago. This find takes its name from the 1967 Beatles song Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds, prompting NASA to send the spaceship high with lyrics from band members and words of wisdom from other luminaries printed on a plaque. The spacecraft also carries a disc made of lab-grown diamonds for one of its scientific instruments.

In a video pre-recorded for NASA, Beatles drummer Ringo Starr paid tribute to his late colleague John Lennon, credited with writing the song.

“Lucy returns to the sky with diamonds. Johnny is going to love this, ”Starr said. “Anyway, if you meet anyone up there, Lucy, give them peace and love from me.” “

“Johnny is going to love this”: Ringo Starr wishes the NASA Lucy mission good luck – vidéo

The paleoanthropologist behind the discovery of Lucy’s remains, Donald Johanson, said he was amazed by this “intersection of our past, our present and our future”.

“That a human ancestor who lived so long ago spurred a mission that promises to add valuable information about the formation of our solar system is incredibly exciting,” said Johanson, Arizona State University, who traveled to Cape Canaveral, Florida for the launch.

Lucy’s $ 981million (£ 715million) mission is the first to target Jupiter’s so-called Trojan entourage: thousands – if not millions – of asteroids that share the gas giant’s vast orbit around from the sun. Some Trojan asteroids precede Jupiter in its orbit, while others follow it.

Despite their orbits, Trojans are far from the planet and for the most part scattered far from each other. So there was virtually no chance that Lucy would get run over by one as she passed her targets, said Hal Levison of the Southwest Research Institute, the mission’s lead scientist.

Lucy will pass Earth next October and again in 2024 to get enough gravitational force to get to Jupiter’s orbit. On the way, the spacecraft will pass the asteroid Donaldjohanson between Mars and Jupiter. The aptly named rock will serve as a warm-up act in 2025 for scientific instruments.

Drawing her energy from two huge circular solar wings, Lucy will chase five asteroids in the trojan’s leading pack in the late 2020s. The spacecraft will then return to Earth for another gravitational assist in 2030 that will bring it back to Earth. rear Trojan cluster, where it will pass the last two targets in 2033.

Lucy will pass within 600 miles of each target; the largest is about 70 miles in diameter.

“Are there mountains? Valleys? Pits? Mesas? Who knows? I’m sure we’ll be surprised, ”said Hal Weaver of Johns Hopkins University, who is in charge of Lucy’s black and white camera. “But we can’t wait to see what… the images reveal about these fossils of the formation of the solar system. “


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