NASA’s Lucy mission soon to head to the orbit of Jupiter; Mission will seek out Solar System ‘fossils’

NASA is all set to launch a spacecraft named ‘Lucy’ on a 12-year cruise to study and explore the swarms of Trojan asteroids near Jupiter. The Lucy spacecraft which is named after a famous fossilized skeleton found in 1974 in Africa will launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida soon October 16, 2021. Lucy will become the first solar-powered spacecraft ever in history.

NASA  scientists say the objects, Trojan asteroids are leftovers from the formation of the planets. Scientists also say that these trojans might help to find important clues about the early evolution of the Solar System. 

Astronomer Hal Levison of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado, leads the Lucy mission. Lucy will do three Earth flybys for gravity assists, and the aircraft will be the first time a spacecraft has ever returned to Earth’s vicinity from the outer solar system. Also, the spacecraft will continue cycling between the two Trojan swarms every six years. 

Trojan asteroids are a large group of asteroids that share the planet Jupiter’s orbit around the Sun. By convention, they are each named from Greek mythology after a figure of the Trojan War, hence the name “Trojan”. As of 2004, many Jupiter trojans showed to observational instruments as dark bodies with reddish, featureless spectra. The term “Trojan Asteroid” specifically refers to the asteroids co-orbital with Jupiter, but the general term “trojan” is sometimes more generally applied to other small Solar System bodies with similar relationships to larger bodies.

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These primitive bodies are thought to have come from all over the solar system and so preserve a record of the conditions 4.6bn years ago when Earth and the other planets were forming.