Science

NASA’s Lucy Mission: Words of Wisdom in the Darkness of Space

In the 1970s, NASA’s four spacecraft fired their engines and started a one-way journey out of the solar system carrying small metal plaques on Pioneer 10 and 11 and golden records on Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft. These plaques identified the time and place of origin of these spacecraft to serve as messages to any alien spacefarers that may someday encounter the plaques in the distant future.

The golden plaque was the brainchild of Carl Sagan, who hoped that in the distant future, if any alien civilization might encounter the craft, then they would be able to recognize who made it and how to contact them.

In continuation with the hope to find answers to the alien universe, NASA’s Lucy spacecraft, as the first-ever mission to the Trojan asteroids, will carry a similar plaque. Hence, the plaque in Lucy is a time capsule featuring messages to our descendants. The messages are the words of wisdom meant to inspire humanity in the distant future.

A time-capsule containing words of wisdom

The Lucy spacecraft is scheduled to launch in October 2021, and the Lucy team chose to put a time capsule aboard the spacecraft with messages not for unknown aliens, but for future space travelers. The messages are from the prominent members of our society including those who have deliberated and contemplated human’s position and place in our universe. The plaque includes quotes from the greatest physicists of all time, Albert Einstein, poet Joy Harjo, author Kazuo Ishiguro, leader Martin Luther King Jr., Brian May of Queen, Yoko Ono, Carl Sagan, and others.

These Nobel Laureates in Literature, United States Poet Laureates, and other inspirational figures are joined by members of the band ‘The Beatles’ that indirectly inspired the Lucy mission’s name. Although the Lucy spacecraft is named in honor of the fossilized human ancestor, Lucy’s name was also indirectly inspired by the Beatles’ song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”

The plaque is inscribed with the quotes of the Band members John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison. These quotes include:

“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” – Paul McCartney

“We all shine on . . . like the moon and the stars and the sun.” – John Lennon

“Peace and love.” – Ringo Starr

“When you’ve seen beyond yourself then you may find peace of mind is waiting there.” – George Harrison

Lucy: NASA’s first-ever mission to the Trojan asteroids

NASA’s Lucy mission will probe into a set of asteroids near Jupiter known as the Trojans. These ancient space rocks hold critical clues regarding the creation of our solar system which will potentially unravel various unanswered questions of the origin of life on Earth.

As part of NASA’s Discovery Program, the mission Lucy was approved in January 2017 and it will survey the enigmatic population of small bodies that orbit the Sun beyond the main asteroid belt, trapped by Jupiter and the Sun.

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