Nasa's Lucy asteroid mission blasts off on path for Jupiter

The spacecraft heading to the so-called 'space fossils' is called Lucy - and that earned the mission a special musical send-off, as ITV News Reporter Cari Davies explains

Nasa’s latest asteroid mission, Lucy, which is heading to Jupiter to study the rocks around the planet has blasted off.

The rocket successfully launched on Saturday, and will now spend the next 12 years exploring a record-breaking number of asteroids.

What's the plan for Lucy after lift off?

In April 2025, the spacecraft is due to fly by one asteroid in the solar system’s main belt, followed by seven Trojan asteroids starting in August 2027.

Its path will circle back to Earth three times for gravity assists, making it the first spacecraft ever to return to our planet’s vicinity from the outer solar system.

'Liftoff - sending Lucy to uncover the fossils of our solar system'

What do Nasa hope to discover?

Named after characters in Greek mythology, the Trojan asteroids circle the Sun in two swarms, with one group leading ahead of Jupiter in its path, the other trailing behind it.

By studying these asteroids up close, scientists hope to learn more about how our solar system’s planets formed 4.5 billion years ago and why they ended up in their current configuration.

The mission takes its name from the fossilised human ancestor (named Lucy by her discoverers) whose skeleton provided unique insight into humanity’s evolution.

Likewise, it is hoped the Lucy mission will revolutionise our knowledge of planetary origins and the formation of the solar system.

(PA Graphics) Credit: PA Graphics

Lucy is more than 14 metres from tip to tip, but most of that is the huge solar panels (each more than seven metres in diameter) needed to power the spacecraft as it flies out to the orbit of Jupiter.

All of the instruments, and the two-metre-high gain antenna needed to communicate with Earth, will be located on the much smaller spacecraft body.