NASA’s asteroid Hunter Lucy soars into the sky with diamonds

Cape Canaveral, Florida (AP)

A NASA spacecraft named Lucy flew into the sky with diamonds on a 12-year quest to explore eight asteroids on Saturday morning.

Seven of the mysterious space rocks are in a swarm of asteroids that share Jupiter’s orbit and are thought to be the pristine remnants of planet formation.

The Atlas V rocket was launched before dawn, and Lucy embarked on a roundabout journey of approximately 4 billion miles (6.3 billion kilometers). “I’m just happy,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Robert Cabana following the lift-off. “This is the coolest mission.”

Lucy is named after a 3.2 million-year-old skeletal relic of a human ancestor discovered in Ethiopia nearly half a century ago. The discovery, named after the 1967 Beatles song “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” gave NASA a soaring spaceship with the lyrics of band members and the words of wisdom of other celebrities engraved on the plaque. I urged you to send it. The spacecraft also carried a laboratory-grown diamond disc as one of its scientific instruments.

In a NASA recorded video, Beatles drummer Ringo Starr paid tribute to his deceased colleague John Lennon, who was famous for writing songs that inspired all of this.

“Lucy is back in the sky with a diamond. Johnny should love it,” Star said. “Anyway, if you meet someone there, Lucy, give them peace and love from me.”

Donald Johanson, a paleoanthropologist behind Lucy’s fossil discovery, said he was full of wonders about this “intersection of our past, present, and future.”

Published by NASA, this photo shows the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with the Lucy spacecraft launched from Space Ranch Complex 41 by the Cape Canaveral Air Force on Saturday, October 16, 2021. Florida station. Lucy will be the first spacecraft to study Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids. Like the name of the mission, the fossilized human ancestor “Lucy”, whose skeleton provided unique insights into human evolution. Lucy revolutionizes knowledge about the origin of planets and the formation of the solar system. (Bill Ingalls via AP / NASA)

Johansson of Arizona State University traveled to Cape Canaveral for the launch.

Lucy’s $ 981 million mission is the first mission to become an aide to Jupiter’s so-called Trojan horse. Thousands (if not millions) of asteroids that share the vast orbits of gas giants around the Sun. Some trojan Jupiter asteroids precede Jupiter in its orbit, while others track it.

Despite their orbits, Trojans are far from the planet, most scattered far from each other. Hull Lebison of the Southwest Institute, the mission’s chief scientist, said Lucy’s chances of being attacked by one person were essentially zero when Lucy plunged beyond her target.

Lucy will raid Earth again in October and 2024 next year, gaining enough gravitational force to reach Jupiter’s orbit. On the way there, the spacecraft passes the asteroid Donald Johanson between Mars and Jupiter. A well-named rock acts as a 2025 warm-up act for scientific instruments.

Lucy draws power from two giant circular sun wings and chases five asteroids in a major pack of Trojan horses in the late 2020s. The spacecraft then plunges toward Earth in 2030 for another gravity assist, looks back at the subsequent Trojan cluster, and passes the last two targets in 2033.

This is a complex detour that NASA’s chief science mission, Thomas Zurbuchen, first shook his head. “You’re kidding. Is this possible?” He remembered asking.

Lucy passes within 600 miles (965 km) of each target. The largest is about 70 miles (113 kilometers) in diameter.

“Are there mountains? Valleys? Pit? Mesa? Do you know? You’ll be surprised,” said Halweaver of Johns Hopkins University, who is in charge of Lucy’s black-and-white camera. “But I can’t wait to see what the images reveal about these fossils from the formation of the solar system.”

NASA will launch another mission next month to test whether humans can change the orbit of an asteroid. Practice in case the Earth is heading towards Killer Rock this way.

NASA’s asteroid Hunter Lucy soars into the sky with diamonds

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