NASA's Lucy spacecraft launched on Saturday on a 12-year mission that will explore Jupiter's Trojan asteroids. It will gather new information about the formation of the solar system.
The Atlas V rocket that was responsible for propelling this probe lifted off from Cape Canaveral at 5:34 AM local time (0934 GMT).
Lucy, named after an ancient fossil from a prehuman ancestor of humans, will be the first solar-powered spacecraft so far from the Sun. It will also observe more asteroids that any other probe.
Lucy will also fly by Earth three times for gravity assistance, making her the first spacecraft from the outer solar systems to return to Earth's vicinity.
"Each of those asteroids and each one of these pristine samples provide a piece of the story about the solar system, our story," Thomas Zurbuchen (associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission) told reporters during a conference call.
Lucy will meet Donaldjohanson, an asteroid in the Main Belt between Mars and Jupiter in 2025. This will be her first encounter. Named after the Lucy fossil discoverer, the asteroid was named.
A rocket carrying the Lucy spacecraft aboard, an Atlas V rocket is launched. (Bill Ingalls/NASA)
It will encounter seven Trojan asteroids between 2027-2033. Five of them are in the swarm leading Jupiter and two in its trailing swarm.
They measure approximately 60 miles (95 km) in circumference.
Lucy will fly within 250 miles (400 km) of its target objects and use its onboard instruments to study their geology.
Diamond in the Sky
The Jupiter Trojan asteroids are believed to be well over 7,000 and leftover materials from the formations of our solar system’s giant planets Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune, Uranus, Saturn, and Uranus.
Scientists believe that they have vital clues to the composition and physical conditions of the protoplanetary disk, from which all Sun's planets were formed, according to scientists.
They can be divided into two swarms. The leading swarm is sixth of a lap ahead Jupiter, while the trailing one-sixth is behind.
Hal Levison, the key scientist for the mission, stated that one of the most surprising things about Trojans is their differences with each other, especially when it comes to colors.
Some are gray while others are red. The differences indicate how far from the Sun they may have formed before they assumed their current trajectory.
Lucy, the fossil discovered in Ethiopia in 1974, helped shed light on human evolutionary history. With the hope of shedding light on the evolution of the solar system, the name for the space mission was chosen.
The hominin remains were discovered by paleoanthropologists. They were named after the Beatles song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", that they were singing loud at the expedition camp.
Lucy is carrying a probe equipped with a diamond beam splitter. The probe also carries the Lucy Thermal Emission Scotrometer which detects far infrared radiation to map the surface temperatures of asteroid surfaces.
The team can determine physical properties by measuring temperature at different times during the day.