NASA’s Lucy Mission is ready to fly Trojan Asteroids


Lucy’s mission derives its moniker from the fossilized partial skeleton of an early human ancestor, Australopithecus afarensis, discovered in 1974, changed ideas about the origin and evolution of man. The researcher asked to make this spacecraft for planetary science what this skeleton does for paleoanthropology, by giving us a look at the formation and evolution of our solar system.

In the infancy of the solar system, debris orbits a squished disk around a child’s Sun. Fragments and motes of material stick together, snow, and mature on the fine planets we see today. Asteroids are the reason the cluster is thrown out of that process. “They’re the remaining pieces from this very early period before the planets,” said Tom Statler, NASA’s Lucy program scientist.

He likens the study of asteroids to pyramid research – if the pyramids, in this metaphor, are Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, and the Trojan asteroids are the material from which they are built. You just have to learn a lot about how to get the finished triangular product from the finished fine structure. Find the abandoned construction site, and you can understand more about their generation. “Things that eventually became Trojans formed throughout the solar system and were brought in and trapped where they are today,” Statler said. “The Trojan was some of the remnants that were taken and left there.”

And even if our own planet is rocky, and not a gas giant, studying the outer planets will give us information about how it happened. “It has become especially clear and obvious that no planet is alone,” Statler said. “The Earth is what it is because the solar system is it … To understand the Earth, it is necessary we can understand how other planets are formed and developed. “

Lucy relies on three main instruments: L’LORRI, L’TES, and L’Ralph. The automatic “L” means they are part of Lucy’s mission, as each is based on devices that have previously flown. LORRI and Ralph instruments on board New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Kuiper belt. “L’LORRI,” then, means “Lucy Lorri,” according to Michael Vincent, assistant director of the space operations department at the Southwest Research Institute. The OTES about OSIRIS-REx spacecraft on asteroid Bennu, and it praises in part from an instrument called TES, which previously flew the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft. “The devil we know is what we want to keep going,” Vincent said. (Also, one of the mission scientists has a background in France and is, Vincent joked, “that the class tested the area.”)

L’LORRI is actually an imaginative camera, sharp enough that it can take clear photographs of 200-foot frogs from 600 miles away, map it to reveal the history of a asteroid. You can also hunt for rings and satellites, and help navigate Lucy towards the asteroids. After all, choosing which far point to target is not simple. “These things aren’t a lot out there, and we’re going to break up separately,” Vincent said.

The L’TES works differently like the non-contact thermometers you can detect from Covid-19 screenings, but instead of aiming at the forehead, the instrument points to an area of ​​an asteroid and takes its temperature by recognizing the infrared radiation coming from it “Later on, you’re kind of going to make an overall picture by scattering a lot of different areas,” Vincent says. . Their purpose is to measure “inertia heat,” or how fast or slow parts of the asteroid are heating or cooling — an indication of what materials they are made of. Sand, for example, holds heat differently from rock, which you may notice when you walk along the beach at sunset.



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