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The Secret of the Lucy mission!

What is the Lucy mission?

Lucy is an arranged mission by NASA to fly-by 5 Jupiter Trojan asteroids, alongside a main Asteroid belt object, and is set to dispatch in 2021. This will be the first time through a rocket has visited a Jupiter Trojan! visiting the three fundamental sorts (C, P and D-type) promising to uncover the assorted variety of the early stage bodies that assembled the planets!

Beyond the asteroid belt our fossils of planet formation known as the Trojan asteroids. The Trojan is an interesting population of small bodies that are leftover from the formation of the planets and may lead or follow Jupiter in its orbit by roughly 60 degrees.  

The gravitational attraction of the Sun and Jupiter and something exactly 60 degrees in front of Jupiter it's stable forever. These objects are really the leftovers of planet formation. The stuff that went into the growing Jupiter and Saturn are trapped in these locations.



The very first asteroid we get to is a main-belt asteroid named Donald Johanson named after the researcher who found the Lucy fossil. The Lucy mission is named after the Australia Pittacus fossil that was discovered in the 1970s in Ethiopia and just like the Lucy fossil transformed our understanding of hominid evolution, this Lucy mission to Trojans will transform our understanding of solar system evolution.

NASA is preparing to visit these objects for the first time with the Lucy mission to the Trojans. This mission is going to fly past seven asteroids in 12 years with one spacecraft.

Why is this mission?

Trojan asteroids
Most asteroids in our solar system can be found in the asteroid belt, between Mars and Jupiter. (Image credit: spaceplace.nasa.gov)

Visiting both of the Transformers and the first orbit were going into the leading Swan and we're going to encounter the diversity and sizes and colours and compositions. The first two flybys happen just about 30 days apart so it's going to be a pretty busy kickoff to the season of exploring these Trojan asteroids and then we'll fly past earth again.

This helps us to study the diversity of our targets because that tells us something about their origin and where they came from.

Key events of the flyby  of Lucy mission
Key events of the flyby of Lucy mission

The interesting thing about small bodies, in general, is they are the leftovers of planet formation. the eight planets that we know about, for example, they are highly processed because of internal processing. 

These asteroids are objects that really haven't changed much from when the planets assembled themselves and as a result, by studying them we can figure out the physical conditions of the early solar system as well as how the planets grew and how they moved around.

What are the Payloads carried by Lucy?

  • L'Ralph
  • L'LORRI
  • L'TES

What is L'Ralph? 

It is a visible and infrared imager and a spectrometer to give maps of significant cosmic targets dependent on information from that equipment.


Ralph instrument
Ralph Instrument (Image credit: NASA )

Difference between Ralph and L'Ralph.

L'Ralph is based on the Ralph instrument on New Horizons and will be built at Goddard Space Flight Center., It has enhanced technology than New Horizons's Ralph .


Lucy mission (Image source: Wikipedia)

It can identify a more extensive range of electromagnetic radiation, it has a moving mirror that reflects light into L'Ralph instead of requiring movements of the entire spacecraft.

It will be used to measure silicates, ices and organics at the surface.

What is L'LORRI?

It is a high-resolution visible imager. L'LORRI have enhanced technology from New Horizons LORRI instrument and will be built at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. It will provide the most detailed images of the surface of the Trojans.

What is L'TES?

It is a thermal infrared spectrometer. It is similar to OTES on the OSIRIS-REx mission and will be built at Arizona State University.

It will reveal the thermal characteristics of the observed Trojans, which will also inform the composition and structure of the material on the surface of the asteroids.

Project Information:

  • NASA Lead Center: Goddard Space Flight Center
  • International Partner: No one
  • Launch Location: Kennedy Space Center
  • Launch Vehicle: Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center. (TBD)
  • Duration: 11.6 years

Key events:

TargetDateType
Donald Johanson20 April 2025C-type
Eurybates12 August 2027C-type
Polymele15 September 2027P-type
Leucus18 April 2028D-type
Orus11 November 2028D & C-type
Patroclus2 March 2033Binary P-type 

Credits:

  • Lead Producer/Lead Editor: James Tralie
  • Technical Support: Aaron E. Lepsch
  • Lead Data Visualizer: Kel Elkins
  • Animators: Walt Feimer, Michael Lentz, Jonathan North
  • Scientists: Cathy Olkin, Harold Levison

Summary:

Lucy is a first mission planned by NASA to fly-by 5 Jupiter Trojan asteroids in the asteroid belt, cousin of Kuiper belt (home of Pluto), set to launch in 2021. This helps us to study the diversity of our targets because that tells us something about their origin. By studying them we can figure out the physical conditions of the early solar system as well as how the planets grew and how they moved around. The duration of this mission is 11.6 years. The project’s preliminary cost range is $914 million to $984 million.



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