NASA Plans to Launch Mission to Explore Jupiter’s Mysterious Trojan Asteroids

by Michael Freeman

Since Inspiration4’s successful launch, we’ve been receiving a lot of space news lately. On that note, earlier this week, NASA announced plans to launch a mission to explore Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids.

NASA states the mission will begin on October 16. The mission is to help the agency understand how the planets formed 4.5 billion years ago. Another objective is learning why they ended up in their current locations. Dubbed the Lucy mission, the rocket will leave Cape Canaveral Force Station at 5:30 a.m. ET and aims to explore seven of the Trojan asteroids. The asteroids are known as “fossils of the solar system.”

NASA delivered a statement on the mission, stating it will do something never done before. “Additionally, Lucy’s path will circle back to Earth three times for gravity assists, making it the first spacecraft ever to return to the vicinity of Earth from the outer solar system.”

Tom Statler, a Lucy project scientist, also expressed his enthusiasm in the statement. “With Lucy, we’re going to eight never-before-seen asteroids in 12 years with a single spacecraft. This is a fantastic opportunity for discovery as we probe into our solar system’s distant past.”

The Trojan asteroids orbit the sun in two huge bands. The one in front of Jupiter is called the L4, while the one behind it is the L5. With more than 4,800 known Trojan asteroids, 65 percent fall into the L4 group, while the remainder is in the L5. The seven Trojan asteroids to be studied are named after prominent Greek mythology characters: Eurybates, Queta, Polymele, Leucus, Orus, Patroclus, and Menoetius.

One final fun fact about the mission is the origin of the name. It comes from both the famous human ancestor discovered in 1974, as well as the Beatles song, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.

NASA Confirms Massive Ancient Volcanoes Erupted on Mars

In other space-related news, NASA recently spoke about Mars. Speculated for some time, NASA scientists confirmed massive ancient volcanoes erupted on Mars.

NASA states there’s evidence massive volcanoes erupted in the Arabia Terra quadrant of Mars over 4 billion years ago. Known as “super-eruptions” or “supervolcanoes,” these classifications are reserved for volcanoes that reach the highest value of the Volcanic Explosivity Index. They are also some of the most violent eruptions we’re aware of.

Patrick Whelley, a geologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, spoke of their environmental alterations. “Each one of these eruptions would have had a significant climate impact.” In fact, Whelley says these super-eruptions could have greatly changed Mar’s climate. This includes things like blocking the sun to make the planet colder, to other aspects like releasing thick gases and ash into the atmosphere.

Scientists say they think super-volcanoes are there because said volcanoes collapse into craters called calderas. Researchers found seven calderas on the planet, leading to the investigation.