This content was published on 02 November 2023 – 05:55
NASA’s Lucy probe visited its first asteroid. The US space agency NASA said that the probe flew near the asteroid “Dinkenish” on Wednesday, at a distance of about 400 kilometers, and completed the maneuver successfully. It will now take about a week to send all the collected data back to Earth. Dinkenish, which is less than a kilometer in diameter, is the first of about 10 asteroids that the probe will study — and the flyby is primarily a test to see whether the science instruments on board the probe are working. Their actual target is Jupiter’s asteroids.
“Lucy” was launched in 2021 from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport in the US state of Florida. The more than 14-meter-long probe, which is powered by fuel and rechargeable batteries via solar cells, aims to fly by seven of the so-called Trojan Jupiters: Eurybates, Quetta, Polymel, Leucus, Aurus, Patroclus and Menoetius – all of them. It is named after the heroes of the ancient myth “Iliad” by Homer.
Jupiter Trojans are asteroids that orbit the Sun in the same orbit as Jupiter – preceded by one swarm and followed by another swarm. They are considered “planet formation fossils,” which is why NASA hopes the mission will provide new insights into the formation of planets and our solar system.
In addition, “Lucy” will be the first probe in the history of space travel to return to the Earth’s vicinity three times in order to obtain gravitational support for its journey. The mission is scheduled to last twelve years, and Lucy is expected to cover a total of about 6.5 billion kilometers.
The probe’s name is taken from the Beatles song “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds”. It is said to have been triggered by a recording device when researchers discovered parts of the skeleton of a pre-human female in Ethiopia’s Afar Triangle in 1974. This discovery proved for the first time that the ancestors of today’s humans were able to walk upright about three million years ago.
The fossil – and now NASA’s probe – has been nicknamed “Lucy.” According to NASA, the reason is simple: “Just as the Lucy fossil has provided unique insights into human evolution, the Lucy mission promises to revolutionize our knowledge of planetary and solar system formation.”
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