General, Research, Technology

Why would the Lucy station study Jupiter's asteroids?

It's hard to even imagine how many interestingspace objects exist in the universe. You can even say that there are no uninteresting objects in space, and scientists want to thoroughly study not only every planet, but all asteroids and other "space stones". To gradually accomplish this task, the NASA aerospace agency has long launched the "Discovery" program, in which small spacecraft are sent into space to study the most interesting space objects. In 2015, the agency received money to develop the Lucy interplanetary station, which will study two groups of asteroids moving in the same orbit with Jupiter. NASA has already completed the preparatory work and has begun assembling the device, because there is not much time left before its launch.

Something like this will look like the interplanetary station "Lucy"

Mission "Lucy" start

According to the Southwest ResearchInstitute (SwRI), in the summer of 2021, the device should already be sent to the Kennedy Space Center. There it will be installed under the head fairing of the Atlas V 401 launch vehicle, which will launch the station into outer space. If all goes according to plan, this event will take place in October 2021. According to preliminary calculations, the launch will cost about $ 148 million. In February 2019, SpaceX assured that it would be able to launch the device for a more sane amount, but after a month it lost interest in the project.

Lucy will study Jupiter's Trojan asteroids

At the moment, the assembly of the interplanetary stationLucy is manufactured in the workshops of the American company Lockheed Martin. Experts will combine all the components of the apparatus and begin complex tests. The scientific payload of NASA's new spacecraft includes three main tools:

  • L'Ralph system, which is necessary to detect and measure the amount of ice and organic matter on the surface of asteroids;
  • L'LORRI system, which should provide scientists with detailed photographs of the surface of asteroids;
  • L'TES system, able to measure the temperature of asteroids and determine the composition and structure of their surface.

See also: An asteroid may fall to Earth in November. Do I need to worry?

Lucy's flight path

While the launch will take place in 2021,scientific observations will be carried out only from 2025. First of all, the interplanetary station will make a maneuver around the Earth and only then go on its adventure. In general, his path can be divided into 6 parts:

  • April 20, 2025 he will reach the steroid Donald Johansson;
  • August 12, 2027 flies past the Trojan Eurybat;
  • September 15, 2027 he will study the Trojan Polimela;
  • April 18, 2028 will reach the asteroid Leukus;
  • November 11, 2028 will have time to study the asteroid Orus;
  • March 2, 2033finally, he will study the asteroids Patroclus and Menotius, which are of the greatest interest to scientists.

What kind of discoveries the device will make duringhis adventure is still unknown. But the researchers hope to find materials that helped shape the planets in the solar system. Even the name of the interplanetary station - "Lucy" hints at the essence of the main goal of the project. After all, this was the name of a woman aged 2.3 million years, whose remains were found in the middle of the 20th century. She is considered the first representative of the Australopithecus genus in history, which became known to the scientific community. She is our distant ancestor and, perhaps, within the framework of the mission of the same name, humanity will be able to find the remains of the "ancestors" of the current planets.

Jupiter's Trojan asteroids

Jupiter's Trojan asteroids also got theirthe name is not empty space. These groups of asteroids are divided into two groups, just like the two warring sides of the Trojan War described in the epic poem The Iliad. The so-called "Achaean camp" includes asteroids such as Achilles, Hector, Odysseus and so on. Patroclus, Aeneas, Ankhis, Troilus and others are listed in the "Trojan Camp". As you can see, the names of all these asteroids directly refer to the heroes of ancient Greek literature.

Jupiter and two groups of asteroids move in the same orbit

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It is important to note that in 2015, in addition to the missionLucy, the Psyche mission was approved. The launch of the device of the same name was originally scheduled for 2023, but the event could happen a year earlier. He will study a metal asteroid that has long been wandering in the cosmic expanses between Mars and Jupiter. You can read more about this and other missions in the coming years in this article.