• NASA is set to launch ‘Lucy’, its first mission to explore the Jupiter Trojan asteroids.
• These asteroids are believed to be the remnants of the early solar system, and studying them will help scientists understand its origins and evolution, and why it looks the way it does.
• The solar-powered mission is estimated to be over 12 years long, during the course of which the spacecraft will visit eight asteroids covering a distance of about 6.3 billion km to deepen the understanding of the “young solar system”.
• The mission is named after ‘Lucy’, a 3.2 million-year-old ancestor who belonged to a species of hominins (which include humans and their ancestors).
• 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’.
• The spacecraft will launch from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida on an Atlas V 401 rocket during a 21-day launch period that will start on October 16, 2021.
Mains Paper 3: Science and Tech
Prelims level: Lucy
Mains level: Key highlights about the mission