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Aboard the First Spacecraft to the Trojan Asteroids: NASA Ralph's Next Adventure

8 Nov 2018, 20:44 UTC
Aboard the First Spacecraft to the Trojan Asteroids: NASA Ralph's Next Adventure
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Ralph, one of NASA’s most well-traveled space explorers, has voyaged far and accomplished much: on the New Horizons mission, Ralph obtained stunning flyby images of Jupiter and its moons; this was followed by a visit to Pluto where Ralph took the first high-definition pictures of the iconic minor planet. And, in 2021, Ralph journeys with the Lucy mission to Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids.Ralph, however, is not an impossibly accomplished astronaut — it is a scientific instrument that has made many discoveries since it first launched aboard the New Horizons spacecraft in 2006. Given a name and not an acronym, Ralph enables the study of the composition and atmospheres of celestial objects.New Horizon’s Ralph — which was the first mission to visit Pluto and its moons — will fly by another Kuiper Belt object called 2014 MU69 (nicknamed Ultima Thule) in January 2019. Ralph’s observations of 2014 MU69 will provide unique insights into this small, icy world.The Lucy spacecraft carries a near-twin of Ralph, called L’Ralph (“Lucy Ralph”). This instrument will investigate Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, which are remnants from the early days of the solar system. The L’Ralph instrument suite will study this diverse group of bodies; Lucy will fly by six ...

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