NASA: Lucy Mission

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    In News

    • NASA is set to launch its first spacecraft to study Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids.

    About the Mission

    • Origin: 
      • Named after an ancient fossil 3.2 million-year-old ancestor who belonged to a species of hominins.
    • Aim & Objective:
      • To get insights into the formation of the solar system 4.5 billion years ago.
      • Investigating the group of rocky bodies that are circling the Sun in two swarms- one preceding Jupiter and the other trailing behind it.
    • Duration: 
      • A 12-year journey of eight different asteroids including one in the Main Belt between Mars & Jupiter and seven Trojans. 
    • Donald Johnson Asteroid:
      • The spacecraft’s first encounter will be with an asteroid that lies in the main belt that can be found between Mars and Jupiter. 
      • This asteroid is named ‘Donald Johnson’ after the paleoanthropologist who discovered the fossilised remains of “Lucy”.

    Significance

    • Trojan asteroids are formed from the same material that of Planets formed
    • Origins and evolution of the Solar System.

    What are Asteroids?

    • About:
      • Rocky objects revolving around the sun that are too small to be called planets. 
    • Classification based on their orbits:
      • Main asteroid belt b/w Mars and Jupiter.
      • Trojan asteroids orbit a larger planet in two special places, known as Lagrange points, where the gravitational pull of the sun and the planet are balanced.
        • NASA reports the presence of Jupiter, Neptune and Mars trojans. In 2011, they reported an Earth trojan as well.
    • Near-Earth Asteroids (NEA), circle closer to Earth than the sun.

     

    Lagrange Points

    • Lagrange points are positions in space where objects sent there tend to stay put. 
    • At Lagrange points, the gravitational pull of two large masses precisely equals the centripetal force required for a small object to move with them. 
    • These points in space can be used by spacecraft to reduce the fuel consumption needed to remain in position.

    Source: IE