Lucy Mission Explores The Trojan Asteroids over 12 Years

The Furthest Traveling Solar Powered Spacecraft will travel Over 4 Billion Miles
Published: Oct. 18, 2021 at 9:27 PM CDT
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LAWTON, Okla. (KSWO) -

NASA has launched a new mission on October 16th to study a group of historically-rich asteroids.

Lucy, named honoring the fossilized human ancestor found in 1974, is the first space mission to study the trojan asteroids. the asteroid swarm reside along Jupiter’s orbital path, the same distance from the sun and Jupiter.

“The Trojan Asteroids are a group of asteroids that are the same distance from the Sun as Jupiter. Located 60 degrees in front of Jupiter and 60 degrees behind. And the reason why those locations are special is because it has a gravitational resonance with Jupiter and the Sun and in those gravity wells is where these asteroids have been trapped since the formation of the solar system 4 billion years ago.” says Mike Sekerak.

The Lucy mission will take 12 years to complete as it travels nearly 4 billion miles and making over 3 loops around the sun. It will perform a detailed, contactless remote sensing investigation on 7 separate asteroids never looked at before.

“We’ll be taking images, we will be taking near infrared images, we’ll be taking near thermal mesotrecoscopy to measure temperature. We will be measuring the mass of the asteroid by how it deflects our trajectory as it flies by. We will take a lot of images to create shape models so that we can also calculate the density of it as well.”

Even without touching or bringing any asteroids back to Earth, Mike believes the data collected will show the how unique our solar system really is.

“We’re gonna get a broad diversity of different types we see out there; Size and shape and composition. We’re trying to understand what the asteroids are, what they are made out of and looking at those scraps will help us understand our solar system formation.”

Lucy’s 12 year journey will also break new ground for NASA. First, it will be the only mission to go to the outer edges of the solar system and return to the vicinity of earth. Lucy will also be the furthest traveling solar powered spacecraft sent out. With changes to our space travel history, Mike recommends we do something to recognize change in our own lives during this dozen year exploration.

“We won’t encounter our first trojan asteroid until 2027, and our last encounter is in 2033. So, this really takes a lot of long term planning. So if you search for NASA Lucy and find the Lucy website, you can see we will have different events for the different encounters. And what we are doing right now is encouraging people to make a time capsule of things that are around you right now and add to the time capsule each of the encounters and when the mission ends in 12 years, you can look at that time capsule and see how your life has evolved as we learn about how the solar system evolved.”

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