The Lucy probe begins its mission to hunt distant asteroids

The Lucy probe begins its mission to hunt distant asteroids

By 2025, the Lucy mission will fly over the main Trojan asteroid belt to study its geological composition, exact density, mass and size.

The first solar powered vehicle

The Lucy mission, the first for NASA, launched Saturday from Florida towards the group known as the Trojan-Jupiter asteroids, at the start of a 12-year journey that will allow for a better understanding of the way our solar system was formed.

The Atlas 5 missile, which is charged with propelling the vehicle, took off Saturday at 05:34 (09:34 GMT) from Cape Canaveral.

This will be the first solar-powered vehicle to carry out a mission so far from the sun, and it will observe a total of eight asteroids, more than any previous mission.

The director of the scientific unit at the US Space Agency, Thomas Zurbuchen, said during a press conference that each of these asteroids "will reveal part of the history of our solar system and our history."

The spacecraft will first fly by 2025 over the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Then it will head to seven Trojan asteroids, the last two of them in 2033.

The spacecraft will approach the selected objects at a distance of only 400 to 950 km, depending on its size, at a speed of approximately 24,000 km per hour. Trojan asteroids, of which about 7,000 are known, orbit the sun in two groups, one before Jupiter and the other after it.

"One of the amazing things about the Trojan asteroids is that they are very different from each other, especially their color - some are grey, some are red," said lead researcher on the mission Hal Levison. Researchers seek to study its geological composition, exact density, mass and size.

The Lucy mission will also make three flights over Earth to take advantage of its gravitational aid, becoming the first spacecraft to return to the circumference of the planet from the far reaches of the solar system.

The mission was named "Lucy" in reference to the fossil of Australopithecus discovered in Ethiopia in 1974, which helped shed light on the evolution of humanity, while NASA seeks through this mission to shed light on the evolution of the solar system.

The researchers who found this skeleton were listening to the famous Beatles song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" at the time.

The vehicle was made by Lockheed Martin and is a true "piece of art", according to Rich Lybe, the company's director of the "Lucy" program.

The vehicle includes more than three kilometers of cable, as well as huge solar panels that, when placed side by side, are the length of a five-storey building.

The total cost of the mission is $981 million, including operating expenses over 12 years of operations.
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