NASA is all ready to launch its next asteroid-bound mission, which will look into the origins of our solar system.
The Lucy spacecraft’s launch window will open on Saturday (Oct. 16). Following launch, the spacecraft will go on a 12-year voyage to the outer solar system, stopping at half a dozen ancient “Trojan” asteroids that orbit Jupiter in the same orbit.
On this ambitious journey, Lucy will be the first spacecraft to visit asteroids in this region and the first to sail past Earth from beyond the solar system. Furthermore, the voyage will provide new data to scientists working to learn more about our universe’s early beginnings.
About the types of ASTEROIDS:
The mission will search for three different types of asteroids: C-type (a common ancient asteroid made of clay and silicate), D-type (asteroids with low albedos or reflectivity that may be rich in organic molecules), and P-type (asteroids with low albedos or reflectivity that may be rich in organic molecules) (more asteroids with low albedos that may also be rich in organics, although we do not have samples to confirm.
Lucy’s asteroid objectives are 52246 Donaldjohanson, 3547 Eurybates and its small satellite Queta, 15094 Polymele, 11351 Leucus, 21900 Orus, and the binary 617 Patroclus/Menoetius, in that sequence. More details about every asteroid’s size, kind, and orbit may be found on Lucy’s website.
“The dark-red P- and D-type Trojans resemble those seen in the Kuiper Belt of ice planets beyond Neptune’s orbit,” NASA officials wrote in the mission description. “Between Jupiter and Mars, in the outer limits of the key belt of asteroids, the C-types are commonly found. All Trojans are expected to have a lot of dark carbon compounds in them. Underneath an insulating layer of dust, they are probably rich in water and other volatile substances.”
A color visible imager will determine composition; a long-range reconnaissance imager will capture high-resolution images of each asteroid’s surface; a thermal emission spectrometer will investigate how the Trojans retain heat; a terminal-tracking camera will capture wide-field images of the asteroids to learn more about their shapes, and a high-gain antenna will determine the masses of each of the asteroids.
Building of Lucy:
Asteroids and comets are small objects that survived after the formation of our solar system 4.5 billion years ago. By analyzing the composition, orbits, and other dynamics of these tiny planets, cosmologists can understand more about how our neighborhood came to be.
Lucy will also build on recent asteroids missions such as NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission, which is currently on route to Earth with a sample from asteroid Bennu, and Japan’s Hayabusa2, which returned to Earth in late 2020 with dust from asteroid Ryugu.