The Atlas V rocket responsible for propelling the probe lifted off on Saturday from Cape Canaveral.
If all goes as scheduled, Lucy will embark on a 12-year expedition and will become the first solar-powered spacecraft to go so far from the sun.
The probe will study eight asteroids in total — more than any mission before it. In 2025, Lucy will do a flyby of an asteroid in the solar system’s main asteroid belt, called Donald Johanson in honor of the lead discoverer of a fossil of a pre-human ancestor known as Lucy, from which the NASA probe derives its name.
Lucy the fossil, unearthed in Ethiopia in 1974, gave an insight into human evolution. The space probe’s name was chosen with the hope that it will shed light on the solar system’s evolution. The mission will come across seven Trojan asteroids between 2027 and 2033.
Meanwhile,Several massive asteroids are expected to whiz close to Earth in the coming weeks, including one nearly the size of the Empire State Building.
Two are expected to soar near the planet on Saturday, followed by more in the coming days, according to data from NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies.
On Friday, Asteroid 2021 SM3, which has a diameter of up to 525 feet — bigger than the size of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt — was projected to zoom by around 3.5 million miles away from Earth, USA Today first reported based off CNEOS data.
Near-Earth objects are defined by NASA as “comets and asteroids that have been nudged by the gravitational attraction of nearby planets into orbits that allow them to enter the Earth’s neighborhood.” – DEUTSCHE WELLE