Tomorrow, on October 16th, NASA will start the Lucy Mission into space—it will set a system for the Trojan Asteroids, with the aim of uncovering the earliest histories of our solar system.

Imagined to contain the unused remains of the outer planets, the Trojans sit in two independent clouds named L4 and L5 all around the same orbit as Jupiter.

All through its twelve-year mission, Lucy will make stops to 8 different asteroids to research how, and of what, they are built.

Launching from Cape Canaveral, Florida aboard an Atlas V rocket, Lucy took its title from the fossilized ancestor on Earth that gave us insights into human evolutionary record, which, imagine it or not, took its title from the Beatles tune Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. (The music was reportedly played loudly and frequently in the expedition camp all evening right after the excavation team’s 1st working day of perform recovering the Lucy fossil.)

That piece of trivia was all the a lot more particular when Ringo Starr himself despatched the Lucy group a unique concept of congratulations as launch day finally approached.

A historic mission

“Just like the Lucy fossil reworked our comprehension of hominid evolution, the Lucy Mission will rework our knowing of Solar Method evolution,” said Cathy Olkin, Dep. Principal Investigator on the Lucy staff, on a the latest interview with Planetary Radio.

No other space mission in background will have been released to as several distinct places in unbiased orbits about our sun. Lucy will demonstrate us, for the to start with time, the range of the primordial bodies that built the planets closest us.


The journey will just take place, unbelievably, without having any thruster motor onboard, working with only orbits, a very little little bit of photo voltaic-run propulsion, but mostly by way of the use of Earth’s very own gravity.

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There will be two rotations of the Earth that will act like the winding of a sling a necessity to reach the outer photo voltaic technique. This maneuver will be replicated a third time as the craft returns to Earth on its way to the second cloud of asteroids as aspect of its remaining vacation spot, in total meandering four billion miles over its mission lifespan, using two massive solar-panel wings to retain its devices going.

A weekend on The Trojans

The Jupiter Trojans, also regarded as basically the Trojans, are a team of asteroids considered to depict leftover raw resources from the formation of the outer planets of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, or the shattered remains of planetesimals that have been caught in the orbit of Jupiter as the gasoline huge entered its final stage of development, while the latter idea has been confronted with big difficulties.

An exciting element from what we know of the Trojans are that from object to item, their floor composition varies wildly, suggesting they came from distinct areas of the technique and arrived at the orbit where they sit today, perhaps thanks to gravitational attraction by Jupiter and Saturn as they migrated into their existing orbits.

“These objects haven’t truly transformed a lot from when the planets assembled on their own,” said Hal Levison, Principal Investigator on the Lucy crew. “As a consequence, by learning them we can determine out the physical problems of the early solar program, as very well as how the planets grew and how they moved all-around early on.”

Very little is known about the minerals or resources contained within just around 9,000 asteroids bigger than 2km throughout that float in the L5 and L4 Swarms. The greatest kinds are all named immediately after characters in the Saga of Troy, these types of as Hektor, Patroclus, Agamemnon, Achilles, and Mentor, which are the 5 premier.


Lucy will go to Eurybates and its little moonlet Queta in the L5 Swarm, along with Polymele, Leucus, and Orus (if anybody is pondering where they’re obtaining all these names, just examine out Reserve 2 Line 7 of The Iliad) right before crossing back throughout the solar program to the L4 Swarm and viewing Patroclus, which at 60 miles in diameter is the 3rd-most significant of all the Trojans, and its binary item Menoetius.

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To analyze and photograph the Trojans, Lucy is bringing a spectrometer, which generates photos of distinctive shades centered on what molecules the photographed object is built of—a effective black and white digicam like the a single discovered on the Hubble Place Telescope, and a thermal imager.

For the tremendous-space fanatics, early birds, or those at considerably later time zones, a stay-stream on the NASA site of the Lucy start will commence streaming at 5:AM EST.

Humanity will have to sit limited until finally the election cycle immediately after upcoming kicks up just before pictures of Lucy’s quarry commence to arrive back residence, but the good news is there will be dozens of other missions and discoveries to preserve us occupied by then, not minimum from Perseverance and the before long-to-start James Webb House Telescope.

(View the movie for this tale below.)

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Andy Corbley

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