Workers prepare the Lucy spacecraft for launch from Cape Canaveral. The launch date is set for Saturday, October 16, 2021. Image via SwRI.
Lucy spacecraft to launch Saturday
The Lucy spacecraft – named for a famous fossilized skeleton found in 1974 in Africa – is set to launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Saturday, October 16, 2021. With the help of three gravity assists from Earth, Lucy will travel almost 4 billion miles (6 billion km) in 12 years, exploring one asteroid in the main asteroid belt and seven of Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids. The Trojans move in Jupiter’s orbit around the sun and have never been explored before. And scientists view them as fossils that are left over from the formation of the solar system.
Our fossilized ancestor called Lucy dates to some 3.2 million years ago. The skeleton of the fossil Lucy provided unique insight into human evolution. Likewise, the Lucy space mission will hopefully provide insight into our solar system’s evolution. Astronomer Hal Levison of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado, leads the Lucy mission. He spoke about Lucy’s journey to Jupiter’s Trojans and about how the mission got its name:
The Trojan asteroids are ...