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SLD 45 supports mission to explore Jupiter's asteroids

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying NASA’s Lucy spacecraft launches from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Fla., Oct. 16, 2021. The spacecraft will be the first to explore Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, which could bring new insight to the history of the solar system. (U.S. Space Force photo by Joshua Conti)

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying NASA’s Lucy spacecraft launches from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Fla., Oct. 16, 2021. The spacecraft will be the first to explore Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, which could bring new insight to the history of the solar system. (U.S. Space Force photo by Joshua Conti)

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying NASA’s Lucy spacecraft launches from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Fla., Oct. 16, 2021. The spacecraft will be the first to explore Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, which could bring new insight to the history of the solar system. (U.S. Space Force photo by Joshua Conti)

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying NASA’s Lucy spacecraft launches from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Fla., Oct. 16, 2021. The spacecraft will be the first to explore Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, which could bring new insight to the history of the solar system. (U.S. Space Force photo by Joshua Conti)

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying NASA’s Lucy spacecraft launches from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Fla., Oct. 16, 2021. The spacecraft will be the first to explore Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, which could bring new insight to the history of the solar system. (U.S. Space Force photo by Joshua Conti)

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying NASA’s Lucy spacecraft launches from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Fla., Oct. 16, 2021. The spacecraft will be the first to explore Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, which could bring new insight to the history of the solar system. (U.S. Space Force photo by Joshua Conti)

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying NASA’s Lucy spacecraft launches from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Fla., Oct. 16, 2021. The spacecraft will be the first to explore Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, which could bring new insight to the history of the solar system. (U.S. Space Force photo by Joshua Conti)

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying NASA’s Lucy spacecraft launches from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Fla., Oct. 16, 2021. The spacecraft will be the first to explore Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, which could bring new insight to the history of the solar system. (U.S. Space Force photo by Joshua Conti)

PATRICK SPACE FORCE BASE, Fla. -- A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying NASA’s Lucy spacecraft launched from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida, Oct. 16. The mission will be the first to explore Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, which could bring new insight to the history of the solar system.

Over the next 12 years, Lucy will fly by one main-belt asteroid and seven Trojan asteroids, making it the agency’s first single spacecraft mission in history to explore so many different asteroids. Lucy will also investigate fossils of planetary formation up close during its journey.

“Lucy embodies NASA’s enduring quest to push out into the cosmos for the sake of exploration and science, to better understand the universe and our place within it,” said

Over the next 12 years, Lucy will fly by one main-belt asteroid and seven Trojan asteroids, making it the agency’s first single spacecraft mission in history to explore so many different asteroids. Lucy will investigate these “fossils” of planetary formation up close during its journey.

“Lucy embodies NASA’s enduring quest to push out into the cosmos for the sake of exploration and science, to better understand the universe and our place within it,” said Bill Nelson, NASA administrator. “I can’t wait to see what mysteries the mission uncovers.” 

According to NASA, the spacecraft is now traveling at approximately 67,000 mph on a trajectory that will orbit the sun and propel the spacecraft toward Earth in October 2022. After obtaining a gravity assist from Earth, the spacecraft will accelerate beyond the orbit of Mars. The spacecraft is projected to reach its first asteroid in 2025.

U.S. Airmen and U.S. Space Force Guardians supported the launch effort.