NASA launches first space probe to study Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids – .

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NASA launches first space probe to study Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids – .


NASA to send Lucy, its first spacecraft to study Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, to glean new information about how the solar system was formed 4.5 billion years ago, according to the space agency

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NASA on Saturday launched a one-of-a-kind mission to study Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, two large clusters of space rocks that scientists say are remnants of primordial matter that formed the outer planets of the solar system.

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The space probe, nicknamed Lucy and packaged in a special cargo capsule, took off on time from Cape Canaveral Air Force Base in Florida at 5:34 a.m. EDT (9:34 a.m. GMT), NASA said. It was airlifted by an Atlas V rocket from United Launch Alliance (UAL), a joint venture of Boeing Co and Lockheed Martin Corp.

Lucy’s mission is a 12-year expedition to study a record number of asteroids. It will be the first to explore the Trojans, thousands of rock objects orbiting the sun in two swarms – one in front of the giant gas planet Jupiter and the other behind it.

The largest known Trojan asteroids, named after the warriors of Greek mythology, are believed to be up to 225 kilometers (140 miles) in diameter.

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with the Lucy spacecraft is launched, in this 2-minute and 30-second exhibit, from Space Launch Complex 41 on October 16, 2021.
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with the Lucy spacecraft is launched, in this 2-minute and 30-second exhibit, from Space Launch Complex 41 on October 16, 2021. Photo by Bill INGALLS / NASA / AFP /Getty

Scientists hope Lucy’s close-up flyby of seven Trojans will provide new clues as to how the planets in the solar system formed around 4.5 billion years ago and what shaped their current configuration. .

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Believed to be rich in carbon compounds, asteroids could even provide new information on the origin of organic matter and life on Earth, NASA said.

Lucy owes her name to an ancient fossil that has provided information on the evolution of the human species.
Lucy owes her name to an ancient fossil that has provided information on the evolution of the human species. Photo by Bill INGALLS / NASA / AFP /Getty

“Trojan asteroids are remnants of the earliest days of our solar system, actually fossils from the formation of planets,” mission principal investigator Harold Levison of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado said as quoted by NASA.

No other science mission has been designed to visit so many different objects orbiting the sun in the history of space exploration, NASA said.

NASA launched Lucy on a 12-year mission to explore Jupiter's Trojan asteroids for the first time, gathering new information about the formation of the solar system.
NASA launched Lucy on a 12-year mission to explore Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids for the first time, gathering new information about the formation of the solar system. Photo by BILL INGALLS / NASA / AFP /Getty

In addition to the Trojans, Lucy will fly over an asteroid in the Solar System’s main asteroid belt, named Donald Johanson in honor of the primary discoverer of the fossilized human ancestor known as Lucy, whose NASA mission takes its name. Lucy’s fossil, unearthed in Ethiopia in 1974, was in turn named after the Beatles hit “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”.

Lucy the asteroid probe will tell the story of spaceflight in another way. Following a route that returns three times to Earth for gravitational aids, it will be the first spacecraft to return close to Earth from the Outer Solar System, according to NASA.

The probe will use rocket boosters to maneuver in space and two rounded solar panels, each the width of a school bus, to recharge the batteries that will power the instruments contained in the spacecraft’s much smaller central body.

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