Saturday, December 4, 2021

NASA to Launch Craft to Explore Jupiter’s Asteroids

The US space agency, NASA, is preparing on Saturday to launch a craft that will boldly delve into a part of space never before – the asteroids of Jupiter.

Spacecraft Lucy It is set to take off before dawn Saturday from Cape Canaveral, Florida. It is going on a 12-year mission during which it will travel more than 6 billion kilometres.

Lucy The goal is to fly close to Jupiter’s seven Trojan asteroids. There are thousands of asteroids around the giant planet.

The asteroids are believed to be artifacts from the time the Solar System was formed, and scientists hope that by studying them, they can better understand how the Solar System evolved.

Tom Statler, Lucy The program scientist explained in an email to VOA that the asteroids “are left over from the formation of the giant planets of our solar system – Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune” and that “Earth’s formation and early evolution was influenced by what was happening in the Sun.” For the distant giant planets.

“Trojan asteroids hold unique clues to this particular era,” he said.

NASA scientist Carly Howett told NASA TV that there are two main ideas for how Trojan asteroids came into orbit near Jupiter: One, they formed deep in the Solar System, and kicked back toward Jupiter in a game of cosmic billiards. Mari; Or two, they formed close to Jupiter and are composed of the same material as Jupiter’s moons.

“We’re going to learn a lot” about the composition of asteroids, she said, which will help NASA learn more about how and where they formed.

“It’s like going back in time. These asteroids are time capsules,” Will Santiago, an engineer at Lockheed Martin Space, told NASA TV.

Lucy Named for the fossil remains of an early human discovered in Ethiopia in 1974. NASA scientists say the spacecraft will hopefully provide clues about the evolution of the Solar System, just as the remains of human ancestor Lucy were important in understanding how humans evolved.

The fossilized Lucy was instead named for a 1967 Beatles song Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. Coming full circle, NASA says the instrument has diamonds that will measure the asteroid’s temperature.

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On his mission to Jupiter, Lucy It will perform three Earth flybys to propel it further out into the Solar System using a gravitational boost. It will also be flown by an asteroid in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, which scientists consider a test run before Trojan asteroids approach.

The craft has two giant solar panels, 7 meters each, that will provide the power needed to travel 850 million kilometers from the Sun. Because of its large panels, the craft would not be nimble enough to make quick adjustments to its trajectory.

Howett said scientists will use the spacecraft’s camera system to make sure there are no obstacles in its path, but added, “We’re not going to do a U-turn — let’s keep it that way.”

To chart a safe course, she said, NASA is using the world’s best telescopes to study the region of space where Lucy will travel.

“We think we have an idea of ​​what the risks are,” Howett said; However, he adds, “anytime you make a new discovery, there are some dangers.”

Lucy It is not the only spacecraft to search for asteroids in the Solar System. next month, the spacecraft Dart It is set to collide with an asteroid 11 million kilometers from Earth in an attempt to change its course. The mission is a test of technologies that could one day be used to save Earth from a dangerous asteroid.

Also, next year, a craft will explore the asteroid Psyche, which is heavier than nickel and iron, and next year, a space capsule will return to Earth with NASA’s first samples collected from an asteroid last year. Was. osiris-rex The rover is exploring the asteroid Bennu.

“It’s going to be a great few years for asteroid science,” Howett said.

With all the activity in space exploration right now, scientists are trying to explore one of the few regions of the Solar System that haven’t been visited yet.

Trojan asteroids are “the last large population of objects in our solar system that have not yet been observed close-up by spacecraft,” Statler said.


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