Thursday , July 7 2022

NASA’s rocket chasing Lucy’s asteroids soars into the sky with diamonds on board


A NASA spacecraft named Luci took off into the sky with diamonds in a 12-year search to explore eight asteroids.

Seven mysterious space rocks are among the swarms of asteroids that divide Jupiter’s orbit and are thought to be intact remnants of a planetary formation.

The Atlas V rocket exploded in the United States on Saturday before dawn, sending Luci on a circular orbital path nearly 6.3 billion kilometers long.

“I’m just thrilled,” NASA management associate Robert Cabana said after he left.

Lucy's spacecraft is heading for Jupiter
The Atlas V rocket was launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida.(AP: Chasiti Mainard / Orlando Sentinel)

Luci was named after the 3.2 million-year-old skeletal remains of a human ancestor found in Ethiopia almost half a century ago.

The discovery was named after a Beatles song from 1967, Luci in the Ski with Diamonds, which is why NASA sent a spacecraft up with the lyrics of the band members and the words of wisdom of other lights imprinted on the board.

The spacecraft also carries a disk of laboratory-grown diamonds for one of its scientific instruments.

In a pre-recorded video for NASA, Beatles drummer Ringo Starr paid tribute to his late bandmate John Lennon, credited with writing the song that inspired all of this.

“Anyway, if you meet someone upstairs, Lucy, give them peace and love from me.”

The paleoanthropologist behind Lucy’s fossil discovery, Donald Johansson, said he was filled with amazement at this “intersection of our past, our present and our future.”

Luci goes after the Trojans

Lucy’s $ 1.3 billion ($ 981 million) mission is the first to target Jupiter’s so-called Trojan escort: thousands — if not millions — of asteroids sharing the gas giant’s expansive orbit around the Sun.

Some of the Trojan asteroids precede Jupiter in its orbit, while others follow it.

Despite their orbits, the Trojans are far from the planet and are mostly scattered far from each other, so there is essentially no zero for Lucy to get stuck as she slips past her targets, says Hal Lewison, chief scientist of the Southwestern Research Institute’s mission.

The Atlas V rocket is ready for launch, the length of which is reflected in the puddle in the foreground
Robotic pioneer Lucy exploded on Saturday on a 12-year cruise to unexplored swarms of asteroids near Jupiter. (AP: Bill Ingalls / NASA)

Lucy will fly past the Earth next October and again in 2024 to get enough gravitational oampre to reach Jupiter’s orbit.

On the way there, the spacecraft will pass by the asteroid Donaldjohanson between Mars and Jupiter. An appropriately named deadline will serve as a warm-up for scientific instruments in 2025.

Drawing power from two huge circular solar wings, Luci will hunt five asteroids in the leading Trojan package in the late 2020s.

The spacecraft will then move back to Earth for another gravitational aid in 2030, which will take it back to the Trojan cluster in the back, where it will pass the last two targets in 2033.

It is a complicated, rounded path that was initially carried out by the head of NASA’s scientific mission, Thomas Zurbuchen. “You gotta be kidding. Is this possible?” he remembered asking.

The ports will pass within 965 kilometers of each destination. The largest is about 113 kilometers in diameter.

“Are there mountains? Valleys? Pits? Mesas? Who knows? I’m sure we’ll be surprised,” said Hal Weaver of Johns Hopkins University, in charge of Lucina’s black-and-white camera.

“But we can’t wait to see what … images will reveal about these fossils created in the solar system.”

NASA plans to launch the next mission next month to test whether humans could change the asteroid’s orbit – a practice in case the Earth ever encounters this rock.


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