Soon, a NASA mission will explode to investigate the Trojans, a group of less-studied asteroids in the outer solar system. The Lucy mission, named after the famous Australopithecus fossil, which was key to understanding early human evolution, will be launched later this month and could help teach us how the solar system was formed. .
The spacecraft has been flown to Florida, ready for launch from Space Launch Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Saturday, October 16th. into the Earth’s atmosphere, out of Earth’s orbit and through the solar system to the Trojan asteroids.
The Trojans are in the orbit of Jupiter, in two groups: one in front of the planet and one behind. Astronomers think that these asteroids are remnants of some of the materials that formed the planets in the early days of the solar system, so studying them can help us understand how planets form.
“With Lucy, we will go to eight asteroids never seen in 12 years with a single spacecraft,” said Tom Statler, a scientist on the Lucy project at NASA headquarters. “This is a fantastic opportunity for discovery as we explore the distant past of our solar system.”
“There’s been a lot of hands-on work,” said Doña Douglas-Bradshaw, Lucy’s project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “This summer has passed so quickly; it’s hard to believe we’re about to launch. ”
With the spacecraft preparing for launch, its fuel tanks have been filled with a mixture of liquid hydrazine and liquid oxygen that will allow it to maneuver between asteroids. It also has its own solar panels to recharge the sun’s scientific instruments.
“Launching a spaceship is almost like sending a child to college; you’ve done everything you can to prepare them for the next big step on their own,” said Hal Levison, Lucy’s lead researcher, based at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.