Artist's impression of the Lucy as it passes near a Trojan asteroid with Jupiter in the distant background. Credit: Southwest Research Institute

NASA’s New Spacecraft Will Carry Message to Aliens

A time-capsule for future humans or aliens to find.

NASA’s new interplanetary Lucy mission, scheduled for launch into space in October 2021, will carry a “time-capsule” with famous quotes from prominent members of society or history. Since the station will continue to orbit Earth for hundreds of thousands of years, perhaps it will one day be found by our distant descendants or perhaps even aliens.

Everything you need to know about NASA’s Lucy mission and the time-capsule it will carry

1. The mission of the new interplanetary station “Lucy”, developed by NASA as part of the Discovery program, will be the remote study of several Trojan asteroids of Jupiter, which are located in the vicinity of the L 4 and L 5 Lagrange points in the Sun-Jupiter system and a 1: 1 orbital resonance with the planet.

2. Such objects are found in almost all planets of the solar system and may contain particles of protosolar nebula, organic matter, and ice. Their study will help to understand the processes that took place in the early solar system.

3. The scientific workload of the station consists of two cameras (multispectral and high resolution), as well as two spectrometers operating in the visible and infrared ranges.

Illustration of Lucy’s orbital path. Credit: Southwest Research Institute

4. The launch of the station into space is scheduled for October 2021. First, “Lucy” will make two gravitational maneuvers near the Earth, after which it will go to the main-belt asteroid (52246) Donaldjohansson, past which it will fly by on April 20, 2025, after which it will head to point L4 in the Sun-Jupiter system.

5. On August 12, 2027, the station will fly past the double Trojan (3548) Euribat, and on September 15, 2027, it will reach the Trojan (15094) Polimela. On April 18, 2028, it will fly past the Trojan asteroid (11351) Leukus, and on November 11, 2028, past the asteroid (21900) Orus.

6. After that, the Lucy mission, having made another gravitational maneuver near the Earth, will explore Trojan asteroids (617) Patroclus and Menoetius on March 2, 2033, located at point L 5 in the Sun-Jupiter system and forming a binary system. After completing all the planned research, the scientific program can be extended.

Movements of the inner planets and the two Trojan swarms during the course of the Lucy mission. Credit: Astronomical Institute of CAS/Petr Scheirich
Movements of the inner planets and the two Trojan swarms during the course of the Lucy mission. Credit: Astronomical Institute of CAS/Petr Scheirich

7. Like all recent NASA spacecraft, Lucy will also carry a curious bonus cargo, this time in the shape of a plaque. The messages on this “time-capsule” include famous quotes from prominent members of our society.

8. Some of the memorable messages include an old quote from every original Beatles member, as well as words from Einstein, Martin Luther King Jr., Carl Sagan, and others.

9. NASA hopes that one day Astro-archaeologists from the distant future will find “Lucy” and see these messages from our time. After all, once the spacecraft completes its mission in 2033, it will continue to travel between the Trojan asteroids freely for hundreds of thousands of years or more. That gives humanity enough time to develop and acquire the ability to travel among the planets.

Conceptual image of the Lucy mission. Credit: NASA/SWRI
Conceptual image of the Lucy mission. Credit: NASA/SWRI

10. This is not the first time that NASA’s spacecraft carry messages to whoever may eventually intercept the craft. Well-known previous cases include the Pioneer and Voyager probes. The difference from all previous cases, however, is that in the past, the messages were meant for aliens. This time, however, NASA dedicated the plaque to future humans.

Hopefully, whoever finds the remains of “Lucy” will actually be able to speak English, right? After all, say that it happens in 100,000 thousand years or more. Will people even be speaking the same languages as we do today or not?

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Carter, J. (2020, August 12). NASA smooths the way For ‘Lucy’ robot to explore time capsules from the birth of our solar system. Forbes.
Carter, J. (2021, July 27). NASA’s next mission will Put ‘Lucy’ in the sky with a TIME-CAPSULE For Space-Faring humans of the future. Forbes.
Garner, R. (2017, April 21). Lucy: The first mission to the Trojan asteroids. NASA.
Jenner, L. (2021, July 12). NASA Lucy Mission’s message to the future. NASA.
O’Neill, M. (2021, July 26). The Lucy PLAQUE – spacecraft will carry it on journey to the Trojan asteroids. SciTechDaily.
Schultz, I. (2021, July 13). NASA’S Lucy spacecraft will carry a Time capsule for future earthlings. Gizmodo.
Southwest Research Institute. (2020, August 28). SwRI-led first-ever mission to the Trojan ASTEROIDS passes NASA MILESTONE.

Written by Vladislav Tchakarov

Hello, my name is Vladislav and I am glad to have you here on Curiosmos. As a history student, I have a strong passion for history and science, and the opportunity to research and write in this field on a daily basis is a dream come true.

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