NASA asteroid hunter Lucy launches rockets into the sky with diamonds – National – .

NASA asteroid hunter Lucy launches rockets into the sky with diamonds – National – .

A NASA spacecraft named Lucy exploded in the sky with diamonds on Saturday morning in 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.

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

Lucy is named after the 3.2 million year old skeletal remains of a human ancestor found in Ethiopia almost 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 spacecraft soaring with lyrics from band members and words of wisdom from other luminaries printed on a plaque. . The spacecraft also carried a disc made of lab-grown diamonds for one of its scientific instruments.

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A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the LUCY spacecraft takes off from Cape Canaveral Space Station Launch Complex 41 on Saturday, October 16, 2021, in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

AP Photo/John Raoux

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

“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.” “

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

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“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 for the launch.

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Lucy’s $ 981 million 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 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’s virtually no chance that Lucy will get run over by one as she passes her targets, said Hal Levison of the Southwest Research Institute, the mission’s lead scientist.

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William Shatner takes to space for the first time aboard Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin spacecraft

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 well-named rock will be used as a warm-up in 2025 for scientific instruments.

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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.

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It’s a complicated and roundabout path that first made NASA’s science mission chief Thomas Zurbuchen shake his head. ” You’re kidding. It’s possible? He remembers asking.

Lucy will pass within 600 miles (965 kilometers) of each target; the largest is about 70 miles (113 kilometers) in diameter.

“Are there mountains? Valleys? Pits? Mesas? Who knows? I’m sure we’ll be surprised, ”said Hal Weaver of Johns Hopkins University, responsible for 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. “

NASA plans to launch another mission next month to test whether humans might be able to alter an asteroid’s orbit – handy in case Earth ever has a killer rock headed this way.

© 2021 The Canadian Press


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