The Lucy mission has been on its way to Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids for two days. Over the next eleven and a half years it will visit up to eight different asteroids. Seven of them close to the gas giant and one on the way, in the belt between Mars and Jupiter. However, not everything carried by the Lucy probe on its mission is essential for the study of asteroids. NASA has sent a time capsule inside it, but what does it contain?
We are all familiar with time capsules, which usually consist of burying objects and taking them out again after a certain period of time. It can be one year or it can be ten; it depends on the people involved. NASA has created a particular time capsule that will not have to be dug up. In fact, it is not even for us to get our hands on it once the mission is over, but rather, it is a “message for our descendants”.
The idea is not new. In fact, it is very similar to those of the Voyager 1 and 2 probes, which were sent into space in 1977. Inside each of them was a disc with an hour and a half of music from different parts of the world, greetings in 55 languages, sounds from Earth and some 115 images explaining where the solar system is located and the characteristics of the human body, among other things. The idea came from a scientific committee led by astronomer Carl Sagan. In principle, it was not intended that extraterrestrial beings would come across all this information and understand it; but its mere existence revealed our own life. That is to say, if it were to happen, the other species could know that at some point we existed.
The contents of the Lucy mission
As explained by Adriana Ocampo, the mission’s science director, the Lucy probe could spend a long time traveling between Jupiter’s Lagrange points 4 and 5, if its sails allow it to do so. This dream may be cut short, however, as there seems to have been a problem with the deployment of one of the sails. However, let’s not put ourselves in the worst. If all goes well, the Lucy mission could be thousands of years moving within the solar system.
“It is easy to imagine that someday in the distant future our descendants will find Lucy floating among the planets,” NASA states on its website. “Therefore, the Lucy team chose to put a time capsule aboard the spacecraft in the form of a plaque, messages this time not to unknown aliens, but to those who will come after us.”
The messages are from thoughtful leaders, who “were asked to provide advice, words of wisdom, words of joy and words of inspiration to those who might read this plaque in the distant future.” “These messages were solicited from Nobel Laureates in Literature, the U.S. Poets Laureate and other inspirational figures.” Also included is the song Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds by the British band The Beatles, the song for which the mission is named.
In addition, a representation of the solar system on the day the probe was launched and the trajectory of the Lucy mission are also included. Moreover, this plaque was installed on the spacecraft in a ceremony on July 9 in Colorado.
In short, this time capsule is not for others, as was the case with Voyager and Pioneer, but for humanity itself. Because someday, perhaps, the explorers of the future will find Lucy and the words that were left written on it. Just as more than 50 years ago we found the fossil of the best preserved Australopithecus afarensis, which also bears the name of this mission.