What is NASA's Mission Lucy?

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Apr 29, 2022, 12:00

NASA launched Mission Lucy on October 16, 2021. The Lucy spacecraft embarks on a 12-year journey into Jupiter's orbit. There it will encounter an asteroid that shares Jupiter's orbit with the Sun (known as Jupiter's Trojans or Trojan asteroids).

Mission Lucy's goal is to reveal the origin of the universe. Space data is on the surface of the trojan Jupiter asteroid. The Lucy spacecraft itself is at the heart of the $ 981 million mission.

Significance of the Mission Lucy

Mission Lucy embarks on a journey that may answer questions about the origin of the universe. Equipped with a high-gain antenna, high-tech caper, infrared spectrometer, and thermometer, the spacecraft captures the physical properties of the asteroid to study its characteristics. Some of these physical properties are:

  • Surface geology which includes shape, crater size, structure, and layers
  • Surface composition and colour, which includes rock colour, mineral composition, loose soil composition, etc.
  • Internal and mass properties, including mass, density, powder cover around craters

Scope and Details of Mission Lucy

  • Also known as Discoverer Mission 13
  • Launch Mass 1,500 kg (3,300 lb)
  • Dimensions 13 m (43 ft) Length
  • Each solar panel: Diameter 6 m (20 ft)
  • Rocket - Atlas V 401 rocket (AV096)
  • Cape Canaveral launch site
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Mission Lucy - Facts About Trojan Jupiter Asteroid

The Trojan Jupiter asteroid is an asteroid captured between the Sun and Jupiter's gravitational pull. They are primitive rocks formed billions of years ago. Before the planet's formation, the solar system was filled with trillions of rock bodies orbiting the nascent Sun. Some of these rocks have begun to fuse to form larger planets like Earth, Mars, Venus, and so on.

However, some floating stones remained. These rocks, swept deep into the universe by gravity, carried the mystery of the origin of the universe. Some of these rocks form the trojan Jupiter asteroids that orbit Jupiter. NASA describes them as time capsules from the birth of our solar system, as they contain valuable data from that time.

Jupiter's asteroids are believed to have been formed from the same materials that led to the formation of the planet about 4 billion years before the formation of the solar system. Therefore, Mission Lucy aims to understand the composition of various asteroids that are part of the trojan Jupiter asteroid herd, determine the mass and density of matter, and determine which satellites may orbit the trojan Jupiter asteroid.

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FAQs on Mission Lucy

Q.1. Why was the name "Lucy" chosen for the Mission Lucy?

"Lucy" is the name of the first fossilized skeleton of human ancestry discovered in Africa in 1974. The discoveries provided important insights into human evolution and even changed the general perception of evolution at the time. Similarly, NASA's Mission Lucy to Jupiter's Trojan asteroid will revolutionize the knowledge of the planet and thus of the solar system. For this reason, the name "Lucy" was chosen.

Q.2. Where is the trojan Jupiter asteroid located that is the aim of Mission Lucy?

The trojan Jupiter asteroid is located at the L4 and L5 Lagrangian points 60 degrees before and after Jupiter. Due to perturbations from other planets, their distribution is uneven, and this becomes the main agenda for Mission Lucy.

Q.3. What are the goals of Mission Lucy?

The objective of Mission Lucy is -

  • To understand the composition of various asteroids that are part of the trojan Jupiter asteroid herd.
  • To determine the mass and density of matter of satellites that may orbit the trojan Jupiter asteroid.

Q.4. What are the asteroids that Mission Lucy aims to study?

An asteroid is a rocky object that orbits the Sun, much smaller than a planet. Mission Lucy aims to study the asteroids of Jupiter.

Q.5. What is the estimated duration of Mission Lucy?

Under Mission Lucy, the solar system missions are estimated to last more than 12 years. Meanwhile, the spacecraft will visit eight asteroids about 6.3 billion kilometres away to deepen its understanding of the "young solar system." The spacecraft will be launched by the Atlas V401 rocket.