All you need to know about NASA’s Lucy mission, the first spacecraft flying to Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids

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All you need to know about NASA’s Lucy mission, the first spacecraft flying to Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids
NASA's Lucy spacecraft is scheduled to launch on October 16.NASA
  • NASA’s Lucy spacecraft will launch on October 16 for a 12-year journey to Jupiter.
  • The mission is to study Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids and learn more about how the solar system formed.
  • This will be the first spacecraft to fly to Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids.
NASA is readying its Lucy mission that is scheduled to take off on October 16 next week. This will be the first spacecraft to explore Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, and also the first to examine multiple independent solar system targets. The Lucy mission is a 12-year journey making it NASA’s longest mission so far.

How to watch NASA’s Lucy mission



Lucy is scheduled to launch from earth on October 16 next week. It will launch aboard an Atlas V 401 rocket. The lift-off is scheduled for 2:34 am PT which would be 3:04 pm IST for Indian viewers. You can catch the livestream on NASA TV through this link.

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What are Trojan asteroids?



Trojan asteroids are named after characters from Greek mythology. These are mostly asteroids that are leftover from the formation of the solar system. According to NASA, these Trojan asteroids circle the sun in two swarms where one precedes and the other follows Jupiter in its orbit of the sun. These asteroids are described as clusters of rock grains and exotic ices that didn’t become planets when the solar system formed. This is why the Trojans are considered the best evidence left to learn more about the solar system’s formation.

How will the mission help?



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NASA’s Lucy spacecraft will study the Trojan asteroids up close and doing so is expected to help scientists learn more about how the planets in our solar system formed 4.5 billion years ago, and also why they ended up in their current configuration. Scientists will use Lucy’s black and white cameras to count the number of craters on asteroid surfaces which will let them learn about the environments that the asteroids were exposed to billions of years ago.

Lucy in the sky with diamonds



The spacecraft will first fly by earth twice and use the planet’s gravity to push itself toward the Trojans. The Lucy mission is going to be a 12-year journey. In 2025, its planned journey should see Lucy flying past Donaldjohanson which orbits in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The spacecraft will reach the first swarm of Trojans by August 2026. In September 2027, it will fly by Polymele, and Leucus by 2028 and then Orus in November 2028.

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After Lucy will swing back past earth for a third gravity assist to the other side of Jupiter. Here it will meet up with Ptroclus and Meonetius in 2033. Lucy’s 12-year journey is expected to end in two ways - come back to earth as an artefact or flung into the sun or out of the solar system by Jupiter.

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