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  • As of this month, NASA officially approved the construction  of their asteroid hunting

  • spacecraft, Lucy. Little Lucy will visit two large asteroid clusters near Jupiter known as

  • the Trojan asteroids. It will be the very first time NASA visits these rocky clusters

  • and, within 12 years, Lucy will analyze eight asteroidsboth above and below their surfaces.

  • Asteroids are remnants of our 4 billion year old past, and unveiling their origins could

  • not only revolutionize our knowledge of planet formation, but maybe also provide insight

  • about Earth, its ancient history, and how we got here. No other space mission in history

  • has been launched to as many different destinations in independent orbits around our sun, but

  • the difficulty will  be well worth it. This mission is truly tantalizing because the asteroids

  • are so diverseThe Trojan asteroids are broken up into two

  • large swarms that orbit the Sun along Jupiter's path; one ahead of the planet and another

  • behind it. They're loosely held together by the gravitational pull of the Sun and the

  • massive planet, creating a bit of delicate dance. Because there's so much to learn

  • from each cluster, scientists wanted to pick asteroids that represented three major types

  • of bodies known as C-, P-, and D- types. Since these asteroids are in various locations, they

  • can reveal different exciting discoverieslike how collisions worked billions of years

  • ago, what kings of life-forming materials the asteroids may be made of, and how our planets formed.

  • Although Lucy won't be landing on any of the asteroids, the craft will be mapping their

  • surface geology, color, composition, densities, AND will even be keeping a look out for surprising

  • mini satellites or rings that the asteroids could be pulling in. Now how will it do this?

  • Well of course a spacecraft wouldn't be anything without its sweet suite of instruments.

  • Lucy may be over 13 meters long, but all its remote-sensing instruments will actually be

  • kept in the body of the craft which is less than a meter in lengthThe first is L'Ralph

  • which is a multispectral visible imaging camera and infrared spectrometer. This instrument

  • will be determining how active the asteroids are by looking at the unique composition of

  • silicates, ices, and other organics. Next up is  L'TES, the thermal emission spectrometer.

  • This instrument is similar to what's on OSIRIS-REx, and it will help Lucy understand

  • how heat interacts with the asteroids: what's their thermal inertia like, how do they retain heat, and

  • what does all of that mean about their composition. And then there's L'LORRI, which is the Long

  • Range Reconnaissance imager. It's basically a high-def camera that will be taking detailed

  • pictures of the asteroids. And finally Lucy's High-Gain antenna that will help it

  • determine the mass of each asteroid. Launching in October 2021, Lucy will need

  • two gravity-assists from Earth, meaning it will use our planet to gain momentum on the

  • first leg of its journey. Lucy will meet its first asteroid from the main asteroid belt

  • in 2025. Here Lucy will be able to do a bit of a test run with its instruments. And from there,

  • the craft will make its way over to the outer part of our solar system towards the first

  • Trojan asteroid cluster. There it will meet four other asteroids,and then loop around

  • Earth once, meeting a binary asteroid pair in the second cluster. After 12 years, and

  • 8 asteroids, Lucy will be all wrapped up. With a meticulous course like this, timing

  • is pretty vital. So unlike other NASA projects, like the James Webb telescope that can be postponed

  • without too much mission compromise, LUCY only has a 20-day window to get off the ground

  • in October 2021. With this latest construction  approval, the team is on track for their highly

  • anticipated launch. Lucy's discoveries could unlock the mysteries and answer the questions we have about

  • the solar system, Earth, and even ourselves. I guess we just have to wait and see.

  • Fun fact: Lucy got its name from the fossilized human ancestor that helped us understand human evolution.

  • So the NASA and the Southwest research institute team hope that this craft can do the same

  • for our understanding of solar system evolution. I'm excited to see what it finds! If

  • you want to know more about space exploration, then subscribe to Seeker for all the latest interstellar news.

  • Thanks so much for watching and I'll see you next time.

As of this month, NASA officially approved the construction  of their asteroid hunting

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This Upcoming NASA Mission Could Discover How Our Solar System Began

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    Summer posted on 2020/08/31
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