It is said that while they were finding Lucy, the best preserved fossil of an Australopithecus afarensis, the song Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds by the British The Beatles sounded on the radio. And that’s why they decided to nickname it with this name. Now, a NASA mission will also bear this name and its objective will be study Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids. The launch of the Lucy mission is scheduled for Saturday, October 16. And it is the first time that NASA has sent a mission to study a group of planetary fossils.
To do this, the probe will have to travel eleven and a half years to Jupiter. Once there it will fly over up to eight bodies of this type. It was originally scheduled to visit seven Trojan asteroids; but recently a moon has been found in one of them. For this reason, the mission has ended up being expanded, according to Dr. Adriana Ocampo, scientific director of the mission, at a press conference held this Thursday in Madrid.
“This is the first time that NASA has gone into deep space with only solar energy”
Adriana Ocampo, Scientific Director of NASA’s Lucy Mission
This is also the first time that a probe will go so far only with solar energy: “It is the first time that NASA has gone into deep space only with solar energy,” said the researcher. In Ocampo’s words, the cells created to capture solar energy in this mission will be a return of knowledge for society; since thanks to this research this technology has been improved. “The cells are sewn to the sails of the ship,” added the renowned researcher.
What are Jupiter Trojan asteroids?
Studying Trojan asteroids can help us understand how the solar system formed. In addition, if we are a bit lucky, it could also help us answer one of the great questions that science asks: how did the water molecule get to Earth? And the rest of the biomolecules necessary for life?
We also know that for life to appear we need three things: a source of heat, in this case our Sun; organic molecules and water in a liquid state. These answers could be in these Trojan asteroids and this is why the exploration that NASA wants to do is so important.
The Lucy mission will study the ‘bricks’ of the solar system
But What are trojan asteroids? These bodies are those found at Langrange points 4 and 5 of Jupiter. These areas of the planets are very stable. In fact, at point L2 is where NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) will send the James Webb Space Telescope next December; if everything goes according to plan.
These asteroids are like the bricks left over after building a house, which have also remained almost intact since the solar system was built. With them you can know what materials were when the planets appeared. Hence, the Lucy mission can help discover how life on Earth arose.
“What NASA is exploring is a world heritage site,” commented Ocampo. And it is that, in the end, understand how we got here It is one of the great questions that science asks itself. Also philosophy; but let’s go step by step. Answering questions is sometimes more complex than it seems and life, in itself, is a lot. Will we have an answer thanks to the Lucy mission? Until 2033 it will not reach its destination; so what he has to discover we still cannot advance. But it sure will help scientists better understand the solar system.