This NASA spacecraft is heading towards Jupiter’s mysterious asteroid swarms

Lucy will take black-and-white and color images and use a diamond beam splitter to direct far-infrared light onto the asteroids to measure their temperature and map their surfaces. It will also collect other measurements during flight. This data could help scientists understand how the planets could have formed.

Sarah Dodson-Robinson, assistant professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Delaware, says Lucy can offer an accurate timeline for more than just when the planets were originally formed, but where.

“If you can determine when the Trojan asteroids formed, then you have some information about when Jupiter formed, and you can start asking questions like, ‘Where did Jupiter go in the solar system? “She says. “Because it was not always the same as it is now. He’s moving. “

And to determine the age of the asteroids, the spacecraft will look for craters on the surface, which may be no larger than a football field.

“[The Trojans] there have not been as many collisions and destruction as some of the other asteroids closer to us, ”says Dodson-Robinson. “We can potentially look at some of these asteroids as if they were shortly after their formation.”

During her 4 billion-mile journey, Lucy will receive three gravitational aids from Earth, which will involve using the planet’s gravity to alter the trajectory of the spacecraft without depleting its resources. Coralie AdamLucy’s deputy chief of navigation, says each push will boost the spacecraft’s speed from 200 miles per hour to over 11,000 miles per hour.

“If it weren’t for this Earth’s gravity assist, Lucy’s goal would have required five times as much fuel – or three metric tons, making the mission impossible,” Adam said during an engineering media briefing also held October 14.

Lucy’s mission is due to complete in 2033, but some NASA officials are already confident the spacecraft will last much longer. “There will be a decent amount of fuel on board,” Adam said. “After the last collision with double asteroids, while the spacecraft is operational, we plan to invite NASA to carry out an extended mission and study more Trojans.”

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