This photo shows the Lucy spacecraft aboard at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. AP
A NASA spacecraft named Lucy rocketed into the sky with diamonds Saturday morning on a 12-year quest to explore eight asteroids.
Seven of the mysterious space rocks are among swarms of asteroids sharing Jupiter's orbit, thought to be the pristine leftovers of planetary formation.
An Atlas V rocket blasted off before dawn, sending Lucy on a roundabout orbital journey spanning nearly 4 billion miles (6.3 billion kilometers). Researchers grew emotional describing the launch - lead scientist Hal Levison said it was like witnessing the birth of a child. "Go Lucy!” he urged.
Lucy is named after the 3.2 million-year-old skeletal remains of a human ancestor found in Ethiopia nearly a half-century ago. That discovery got its name from the 1967 Beatles song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” prompting NASA to send the spacecraft soaring with band members' lyrics and other luminaries’ words of wisdom imprinted on a plaque. The spacecraft also carried a disc made of lab-grown diamonds for one of its science instruments.
A display shows NASA's Lucy spacecraft for a mission to study the Trojan asteroids in Cape Canaveral. Reuters
Named after an ancient fossil of a pre-human ancestor, Lucy will become the first solar-powered spacecraft to venture so far from the Sun, and will observe more asteroids than any probe before it -- eight in all.
Scientists hope Lucy's close-up fly-by of seven Trojans will yield new clues to how the solar system's planets came to be formed some 4.5 billion years ago and what shaped their present configuration.
Believed to be rich in carbon compounds, the asteroids may even provide new insights into the origin of organic materials and life on Earth, NASA said.
Additionally, Lucy will make three Earth flybys for gravity assists, making it the first spacecraft to return to our planet's vicinity from the outer solar system.
Photographers set cameras for NASA's Lucy spacecraft at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Reuters
"Each one of those asteroids, each one of those pristine samples, provide a part of the story of the solar system, the story of us," Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission, told reporters on a call.
Lucy's first encounter will be in 2025 with asteroid Donaldjohanson in the Main Belt, between Mars and Jupiter. The body is named for the discoverer of the Lucy fossil.
The probe will use rocket thrusters to maneuver in space and two rounded solar arrays, each the width of a school bus, to recharge batteries that will power the instruments contained in the much smaller central body of the spacecraft.
The rover has been constructed in a large, sterile room at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, near Los Angeles, where its driving equipment was given its first successful test last week.
A colossal, head-on collision between Jupiter and a still-forming planet in the early solar system, about 4.5 billion years ago, has left Jupiter's core less dense and more extended that expected, say researchers.
NASA astronaut Christina Koch is going to have her mission on the International Space Station (ISS) extended to nearly 11 months, which would set a record for the longest spaceflight by a woman, the US space agency said Wednesday.
On November 23, researchers discovered a new "abnormally multiple mutations. Some of the mutations are already known and affect transmissibility and immune evasion, but many more are new.
An official source from the Saudi Interior Ministry said: “It has been decided to allow direct entry of travellers from all countries, for all those who have received a dose of the from 4/12/2021, provided that institutional quarantine procedures are applied to them for three days.”
The amendments offer special benefits for people of determination in order to enhance their benefit and participation in this vital sector.
Any couple conceiving a child out of wedlock will be required to marry or singly or jointly acknowledge the child and provide identification papers and travel documents in accordance with the laws of the country of which either is a national, considering the applicable laws of that nation. Failing this, a criminal case would introduce a prison term of two years for both correspondents.