In a quest to secure answers to the ever-bewildering and intriguingly vague mystery on the ‘Origination of the Solar System’- NASA launched its first-ever Space Probe ‘ Lucy’ to study Jupiter's Trojan asteroids.
NASA’s Lucy mission, the agency’s first to Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, launched at 5:34 a.m. EDT Saturday on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
‘Lucy’ will spend the next 12 years studying the asteroids near the planet Jupiter, making it the agency’s first single spacecraft mission in history to explore so many different asteroids. These asteroids are thought to have originated in the early days of the Solar System’s formation and are still made up of their original matter whereas the planets have continued to evolve over the years. Thus Lucy will investigate these “fossils” of planetary formation up close during its journey in the hope to uncover the hidden secrets behind our existence.
Believed to be rich in carbon compounds, the asteroids may even provide new insights into the origin of organic materials and life on Earth, NASA said.
“Lucy embodies NASA’s enduring quest to push out into the cosmos for the sake of exploration and science, to better understand the universe and our place within it,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “I can’t wait to see what mysteries the mission uncovers!”
About an hour after launch, Lucy separated from the second stage of the ULA Atlas V 401 rocket. It unfurled its massive solar arrays, each one with a diameter of more than seven meters. The enormous size of these panels gives Lucy the sufficient energy needed to penetrate deeper into our Solar System than any other previous space probe.
Lucy's first encounter will be in 2025 with the asteroid, Donaldjohanson, in the Main Belt, between Mars and Jupiter. The body is named for the discoverer of the Lucy fossil.
Between 2027 and 2033, it will encounter seven Trojan asteroids -- five in the swarm that leads to Jupiter, and two in the swarm that trails the gas giant.
To observe Seven asteroids, Lucy has been structured for some complex flight manoeuvres. Following a route that circles back to Earth three times for gravitational assists before launching itself deeper into space, it will be the first spacecraft ever to return to Earth's vicinity from the outer solar system, according to NASA.