The Lucy probe takes off on a mission to explore asteroids

A NASA spacecraft named Lucy took off into the sky before dawn on Saturday from Cape Canaveral, Florida, literally laden with diamonds, on a 12-year mission to explore a record eight asteroids.

The spacecraft carries a disk made of lab-grown diamonds for one of its scientific instruments.

Seven of the attractive and mysterious space rocks are found among swarms of asteroids swarming in the orbit of Jupiter and believed to be the pristine remnants of the formation of the planets of our solar system. This is the first mission addressed to them.

An Atlas V rocket took off carrying Lucy, who will make a roundabout journey spanning nearly 4 billion miles (6.3 billion kilometers), before reaching her eighth and final target in 2033.

The researchers were excited to describe the successful launch: Lead scientist Hal Levison said it was like witnessing the birth of a baby. “Come on, Lucy!” scream.

Lucy takes its name from the skeletal remains of a 3.2 million-year-old human ancestor found in Ethiopia nearly half a century ago. That discovery got its name from the 1967 Beatles song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” prompting NASA to send the spacecraft flying with the band members’ lyrics and the words of wisdom from others. luminaires printed on a plate.

In a pre-recorded video for NASA, Beatles drummer Ringo Starr paid tribute to his late colleague John Lennon, who is credited with writing the song.

“I am very excited, Lucy will return to heaven with diamonds. Johnny would love it, ”Starr said. “Anyway, if you meet someone up there, Lucy, give them peace and love from me.”

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The Lucy probe is the first of several to go into space toward the asteroid swarms. A month later, the Dart spacecraft will chase a double asteroid closer to home. The mission will end when Dart smashes into the main asteroid’s moon to change its orbit, an experiment that could one day save Earth from an approaching rock.

Next summer, a spacecraft will launch into a world of rare metals – a nickel-iron asteroid that could be the exposed core of what was once a planet. A pair of smaller company ships, the size of suitcases, will be dislodged from another set of double asteroids.

And in 2023, a space capsule will parachute into the Utah desert with NASA’s first samples of an asteroid, collected last year by the Osiris-Rex excavator robot. The samples are from Bennu, a rock with debris and boulders that could endanger the Earth within a couple of centuries.

There’s nothing better than understanding how our solar system formed 4.6 billion years ago, said Lucy’s lead scientist Hal Levison of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. “They are the fossils of the formation of the planets.”

China and Russia will team up for an asteroid mission later this decade. The UAE also plans to visit the asteroids in the next few years.

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