NASA has approved plans to create an asteroid mission named Lucy

If everything happens according to plan, it will reach Jupiter as early as 2027


NASA has approved plans to create an asteroid mission Lucy
NASA has approved plans to create an asteroid mission Lucy


NASA experts officially approved the project of the interplanetary station Lucy, which in 2021 should go into space to study the so-called Trojan asteroids of Jupiter.


The construction of the device will start in the coming days, said (SwRI) press-service of the US Southwest Research Institute.

Trojan asteroids are the last traces of the formation of the solar system, peculiar" living fossils "from that era. 

The Lucy device, the supposed ancestor of mankind, will revolutionize the study of our roots and the history of the origin of all life on Earth.

Lucy was one of the winners of the latest Discovery contest, which NASA initiated in the early 1990s. 

The program is specifically designed to create missions that are designed for maximum scientific return and minimum costs. 

Within its framework, experts developed and sent into space twelve orbital probes, landing modules and space telescopes, only one of them was lost before the successful completion of the mission.

In January 2017, NASA management announced that the next two projects of this program would be the Psyche and Lucy missions, designed to study asteroids. 


NASA has approved plans to create an asteroid mission named Lucy
NASA has approved plans to create an asteroid mission named Lucy

The first apparatus will study the birth and structure of the Psyche asteroid, which is a fragment of the nucleus of the "embryo" of the planet, and the second - the so-called Trojan asteroids.


The mysteries of the early solar system

Two centuries ago, astronomers discovered that some asteroids can move in the same orbit with the large planets in the solar system, if they are near special points in front of or behind them, where the attraction of the star and planets is balanced. 

A huge number of such objects, or "Trojan asteroids", astronomers discovered in the orbits of Jupiter, Mars and Neptune.

According to current plans, NASA Lucy should begin to study the asteroid retinue of Jupiter in 2027, after spending about six years on the approach to the giant planet. 

In total, the device must study five small celestial bodies both in the group of asteroids, which moves in front of the largest planet in the solar system, and in the second group, whose representatives "follow the trail" of the gas giant.

In order to reach the second group of asteroids in 2033, the space probe lucy will perform a complex series of maneuvers, during which it will return to Earth and use its gravity for additional acceleration. 

During these wanderings, the probe will receive photographs of other asteroids, including the celestial body 52246.

It was named after Donald Johanson, a paleontologist who discovered in 1974 the remains of Lucy, an Affair Australopithecus, an alleged link between the ancient hominids.

In accordance with the approved plans of Levinson and his colleagues, the probe is supposed to be equipped with three scientific instruments, analogs of cameras and spectrometers, already created and installed on two other NASA missions - New Horizons and OSIRIS-REx. This will significantly speed up the construction of Lucy and reduce costs.

According to the SwRI press service, the assembly of these tools and the device itself will begin in the very near future at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, at Lockheed Martin, at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and at the University of Arizona.

Science Blog, Latest Space Discoveries 2019.

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