A large-scale project that aims to understand more about the development and birth of the solar system launched in Florida, ahead of an ambitious 12-year mission to find asteroids close to Jupiter.
The Lucy mission spacecraft, named after a skeleton from a human ancestor which provided scientific insight into evolution and gave it the same name, began its journey Saturday at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station (Florida). Initially attached to a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, about an hour after blastoff, it separated from the rocket’s second stage.
Lucy set up two huge solar arrays that were each 24ft (7.3m) in diameter to power subsystems as well as multiple cameras to capture future targets.
The spacecraft is currently traveling at 67,000mph (or 108,000 km/h), but it will not arrive at its first destination asteroid before April 2025. Over the course of Lucy’s 12-year mission, it is set to fly by and investigate eight asteroids, believed to be like fossils of planetary formation.
“It will still be several years before we get to the first Trojan asteroid, but these objects are worth the wait and all the effort because of their immense scientific value. They are like diamonds in the sky,”Hal Levison, principal investigator for Lucy.
Trojan asteroids are believed to be the oldest known objects in our solar system. They orbit the Sun along the same route as Jupiter. It is believed that they contain raw materials from billions of years ago, which are what shaped Neptune, Saturn and Uranus. They are thought to be time capsules that provide information about the origins of the solar system.
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“Lucy will profoundly change our understanding of planetary evolution in our solar system,”Adriana Ocampo, a planetary scientist from NASA Headquarters in Washington said.
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