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NASA's asteroid hunter Lucy soars into sky with diamonds

A NASA spacecraft named Lucy rocketed into the sky with diamonds on a 12-year quest to explore eight asteroids.

10/16/2021 5:19:00 PM

A NASA spacecraft named Lucy rocketed into the sky with diamonds on a 12-year quest to explore eight asteroids.

A NASA spacecraft named Lucy has rocketed into the sky with diamonds on a 12-year quest to explore a record-setting eight asteroids

Catch up on the developing stories making headlines.The Associated PressCAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- A NASA spacecraft named Lucy rocketed into the sky with diamonds Saturday morning on a 12-year quest to explore eight asteroids.Seven of the mysterious space rocks are among swarms of asteroids sharing Jupiter's orbit, thought to be the pristine leftovers of planetary formation.

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An Atlas V rocket blasted off before dawn, sending Lucy on a roundabout journey spanning nearly 4 billion miles (6.3 billion kilometers). Researchers grew emotional describing the successful launch — lead scientist Hal Levison said it was like witnessing the birth of a child. “Go Lucy!” he urged.

Lucy is named after the 3.2 million-year-old skeletal remains of a human ancestor found in Ethiopia nearly a half-century ago. That discovery got its name from the 1967 Beatles song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” prompting NASA to send the spacecraft soaring with band members' lyrics and other luminaries’ words of wisdom imprinted on a plaque. The spacecraft also carried a disc made of lab-grown diamonds for one of its science instruments. headtopics.com

In a prerecorded video for NASA, Beatles drummer Ringo Starr paid tribute to his late colleague John Lennon, credited for writing the song that inspired all this.“I'm so excited — Lucy is going back in the sky with diamonds. Johnny will love that,” Starr said. “Anyway, if you meet anyone up there, Lucy, give them peace and love from me.”

The paleoanthropologist behind the fossil Lucy discovery, Donald Johanson, had goose bumps watching Lucy soar — “I will never look at Jupiter the same ... absolutely mind-expanding.” He said he was filled with wonder about this “intersection of our past, our present and our future.”

“That a human ancestor who lived so long ago stimulated a mission which promises to add valuable information about the formation of our solar system is incredibly exciting,” said Johanson, of Arizona State University, who traveled to Cape Canaveral for his first rocket launch.

Lucy’s $981 million mission is the first to aim for Jupiter’s so-called Trojan entourage: thousands — if not millions — of asteroids that share the gas giant’s expansive orbit around the sun. Some of the Trojan asteroids precede Jupiter in its orbit, while others trail it. headtopics.com

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Despite their orbits, the Trojans are far from the planet and mostly scattered far from each other. So there’s essentially zero chance of Lucy getting clobbered by one as it swoops past its targets, said Levison of Southwest Research Institute, the mission’s principal scientist.

Lucy will swing past Earth next October and again in 2024 to get enough gravitational oomph to make it all the way out to Jupiter’s orbit. On the way there, the spacecraft will zip past asteroid Donaldjohanson between Mars and Jupiter. The aptly named rock will serve as a 2025 warm-up act for the science instruments.

Drawing power from two huge circular solar wings, Lucy will chase down five asteroids in the leading pack of Trojans in the late 2020s. The spacecraft will then zoom back toward Earth for another gravity assist in 2030. That will send Lucy back out to the trailing Trojan cluster, where it will zip past the final two targets in 2033 for a record-setting eight asteroids visited in a single mission.

It’s a complicated, circuitous path that had NASA’s science mission chief, Thomas Zurbuchen, shaking his head at first. “You’ve got to be kidding. This is possible?” he recalled asking.Lucy will pass within 600 miles (965 kilometers) of each target; the biggest one is about 70 miles (113 kilometers) across. headtopics.com

“Are there mountains? Valleys? Pits? Mesas? Who knows? I’m sure we’re going to be surprised,” said Johns Hopkins University’s Hal Weaver, who’s in charge of Lucy’s black-and-white camera. “But we can hardly wait to see what ... images will reveal about these fossils from the formation of the solar system.”

NASA plans to launch another mission next month to test whether humans might be able to alter an asteroid's orbit — practice in case Earth ever has a killer rock headed this way.——— Read more: ABC News »

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NASA to launch Lucy probe to study Jupiter's Trojan asteroidsNASA's Lucy spacecraft is set to launch for a 12-year expedition to investigate Jupiter asteroids in a first-of-its-kind mission Y waste resources on jupiter/space when famine, starvation and manlutrition is ramapant everywhere… prince william was spot on KensingtonRoyal

NASA, ULA Launch Lucy Mission to ‘Fossils’ of Planet FormationNASA’s Lucy mission, the agency’s first to Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, launched at 5:34 a.m. EDT Saturday on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. ulalaunch nasahqphoto Here’s our view nasa. Well done to the whole TEAM. LucyMission 🇺🇸 ulalaunch nasahqphoto why do you always launch equipment or other missions at such early times in the morning? ulalaunch nasahqphoto I see what you did there

NASA set to launch $981M Lucy mission, first in series of asteroid-bound spacecraftThe Lucy mission will be the first spacecraft to visit a group of asteroids around Jupiter known as 'the Trojans.'

NASA targets 'bizarre' time capsule Trojan asteroids with Lucy missionThe asteroids have sandwiched Jupiter in its orbit, and could tell scientists about the very early stages of the solar system . Do a story on Uranus.

NASA's asteroid hunter Lucy soars into sky with diamondsA NASA spacecraft named Lucy rocketed into the sky with diamonds Saturday morning on a 12-year quest to explore eight asteroids. Seven of the mysterious space rocks are among swarms of asteroids sharing Jupiter's orbit, thought to be the pristine leftovers of planetary formation. An Atlas V rocket blasted off before dawn, sending Lucy on a roundabout journey spanning nearly 4 billion miles (6.3 billion kilometers).

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