The Lucy mission of NASA set to probe Jupiter’s mysterious Trojan asteroids | Daily Current Affairs 2021
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The Lucy mission of NASA set to probe Jupiter’s mysterious Trojan asteroids

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NASA’s Lucy mission to probe Jupiter’s mysterious Trojan asteroids

NASA Lucy Mission: The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is set to launch Lucy, the first spacecraft to study Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids.

Key Highlights:

  • NASA has tested the functions of Lucy, filled it with fuel, and is preparing to pack it into a capsule to be launched on October 16, 2021.
  • It will be launched on an Atlas V rocket from “Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida”.

Note: NASA’s Juno spacecraft has been orbiting Jupiter since 2016 but the Lucy spacecraft will be the first expedition by NASA to study the Trojan asteroids.

  • After receiving boosts from Earth’s gravity, Lucy will embark on a 12-year journey to eight different asteroids — one in the Main Belt between Mars and Jupiter and then seven Trojans.
  • Lucy will be the first spacecraft to visit these asteroids.
  • By studying these asteroids up close, scientists hope to hone their theories on how our solar system’s planets formed 4.5 billion years ago and why they ended up in their current configuration.
  • The mission is named after after a fossilized human ancestor called “Lucy” by her discoverers whose skeleton provided insights into the evolution of human species.
  • Likewise, the Lucy mission will revolutionize our knowledge of planetary origins and the formation of the solar system.

Objective of the mission:

The main objective of this mission is to investigate the group of rocky bodies circling the Sun in two swarms, one preceding Jupiter in its orbital path and the other trailing behind it.

About the mission:

  • Mission Lucy, after receiving boosts from the earth’s gravity will go for a 12-year journey.
  • During its 12-year journey, the spacecraft will visit seven different asteroids – a Main Belt asteroid and six Trojans.
  • The spacecraft will fly by its target objects within 250 miles (400 kilometers) of their surfaces, and use its onboard instruments and large antenna to investigate their geology, including composition, mass, density and volume.
  • It will be the first solar-powered to venture this far from the Sun, and will observe more asteroids than any other spacecraft before it.
  • The total mission cost is $981 million.
  • The ship was built by Lockheed Martin and includes over two miles of wire and solar panels that, placed end-to-end, would be as tall as a five-story building.

What are Trojan asteroids?

  • Jupiter Trojans or Trojan asteroids or simply Trojans are a large group of celestial bodies that orbit the Sun in two swarms, one ahead of Jupiter and the other trailing behind it.
  • These asteroids are named after characters in Greek mythology.
  • They reside in dynamically stable zones 60° ahead and behind Jupiter.
  • They are located at the Lagrangian points, L4 and L5, located 60o in front of and behind Jupiter respectively.
  • These asteroids were formed in the aftermaths of the leftovers of the primordial material from which Jupiter and the other outer planets were formed.
  • As of now, about 7000 trojans are known.

About NASA:

  • It is an acronym for National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
  • NASA is an independent agency of the United States Federal Government responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research.
  • NASA was established in 1958, succeeding the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA).
  • It is headquartered in Washington, D.C., United States.
  • The 14th Administrator of NASA is senator Bill Nelson.

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