JAKARTA – The US space agency (NASA) has launched a space probe in the first mission to investigate a Trojan asteroid on the planet Jupiter.
Trojan asteroids are two large clusters of space rocks that scientists believe are remnants of ancient material that formed the outer planets of the solar system.
The spacecraft, named Lucy, which is equipped with a special charge capsule, was launched as planned from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on Saturday, October 16 at 5:34 local time (4:34 WIB).
The car, quoted from Reuters because of In between, carried by an Atlas V rocket made by United Launch Alliance (UAL), a joint venture between Boeing Co and Lockheed Martin Corp. Lucy’s mission is to undertake a 12-year expedition to study asteroids.
The probe will be the first to examine the Trojans, thousands of rocks orbiting the sun in two groups – one in front of Jupiter’s gas giant path and one behind it.
The largest group known as the Trojan asteroids – the name of the warrior in Greek mythology – is believed to be 225 kilometers in diameter.
Scientists hope that Lucy’s close exploration of the seven Trojan asteroids will provide new clues as to how the planets formed in the solar system about 4.5 billion years ago and what their current configuration was.
Believing that they are rich in carbon bonds, the asteroids can provide new insights into the origin of organic matter and life on Earth, NASA said.
“Trojan asteroids are remnants of early life in our solar system, fossils of planet formation to be exact,” the lead researcher on the mission of Harold Levison of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, was quoted as saying by NASA.
There has not been a single scientific mission in the history of space exploration designed to visit many different objects that revolve independently around the sun.
In addition to the Trojan asteroid, Lucy will also approach an asteroid in the main asteroid belt of the solar system named Donald Johanson in honor of the head of the archaeological team that discovered the fossil of a human ancestor known as Lucy, whose name was used on the NASA mission.
The Lucy fossil, discovered in Ethiopia in 1974, became the title of the Beatles hit “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”.
Lucy’s spaceship will create space history in a different way. According to a route that returns to Earth three times to gain gravity, Lucy will be the first probe to return to Earth from the outer solar system, according to NASA.
Lucy will use rocket boosters to maneuver through space. The probe has two sets of solar cells, each about the size of a school bus, to charge the batteries that drive the instruments in the center of the hull.