NASA is preparing for the launch of its Lucy mission -- the first to explore distant asteroids and oigins of the solar system on Saturday.
The Lucy mission will complete a 12-year journey to eight different asteroids: exploring one asteroid in the solar system's Main Belt asteroid and seven Trojans, the remnants of our early solar system trapped in stable orbits, and following Jupiter in its path around the Sun.
Lucy is scheduled to launch atop the ULA Atlas V 401 rocket at 5.34 a.m. on Saturday, (3.04 p.m. Indian time), from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
"It's #CountdownToLaunch for our #LucyMission, set to launch October 16 and begin its voyage to the Trojan asteroids -- leftovers of planet formation that share an orbit with Jupiter. We'll discover secrets of the early solar system from these planetary fossils," NASA wrote on Twitter.
Lucy will be the first space mission to study the Trojans. The mission takes its name from the fossilised human ancestor (called "Lucy" by her discoverers) whose skeleton provided unique insight into humanity's evolution.
Likewise, the Lucy mission will revolutionise our knowledge of planetary origins and the formation of the solar system, NASA said.
Time capsules from the birth of our Solar System more than 4 billion years ago, the swarms of Trojan asteroids associated with Jupiter are thought to be remnants of the primordial material that formed the outer planets.
The Trojans orbit the Sun in two loose groups, with one group leading ahead of Jupiter in its path, the other trailing behind. Clustered around the two Lagrange points equidistant from the Sun and Jupiter, the Trojans are stabilised by the Sun and its largest planet in a gravitational balancing act. These primitive bodies hold vital clues to deciphering the history of the solar system.
All of the Trojans are thought to be abundant in dark carbon compounds. Below an insulating blanket of dust, they are probably rich in water and other volatile substances.
No other space mission in history has been launched to as many different destinations in independent orbits around our sun. Lucy will show us, for the first time, the diversity of the primordial bodies that built the planets.