NASA rocket named Lucy soars into the sky -- with diamonds

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Lucy blasted off into the Florida sky on Saturday -- with diamonds, of course.

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The reference to an iconic 1967 Beatles song -- “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds -- was part of the allure as NASA’s asteroid probe rocketed from the Kennedy Space Center to begin a 12-year mission to study two clusters of asteroids around Jupiter, Space.com reported. The asteroid belts are known as Trojans, the website reported.

Lucy soared into space at 5:34 a.m. EDT, and within two hours its solar arrays had deployed and had been in contact with controllers at the space center, NASA confirmed.

Lucy is named after the 3.2 million-year-old skeletal remains of a human ancestor found in Ethiopia nearly 50 years ago, according to The Associated Press. That was inspired by the psychedelic song written by John Lennon for the “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album.

NASA included the lyrics to the song and a disc made of lab-grown diamonds, the AP reported. A plaque with words of wisdom and cheer was also sent into space.

In a prerecorded video for NASA, Beatles drummer Ringo Starr paid tribute to Lennon, whose imagery of “tangerine trees and marmalade skies” made the song a signpost for the “Summer of Love” in 1967.

“I’m so excited -- Lucy is going back in the sky with diamonds. Johnny will love that,” Starr said, pulling back his jacket to reveal a T-shirt with a caricature of Lennon, who was murdered in December 1980. “Anyway, if you meet anyone up there, Lucy, give them peace and love from me.”

Interestingly, Starr received a writing credit for another 1967 song -- “Flying” -- the first song by The Beatles where all four members received a writing credit for one composition.

Lucy -- the spacecraft -- will swing past Earth in October 2022 and again in 2024 before hurtling toward the solar system’s largest planet, according to the AP. The mission, which cost $981 million, is the first to aim for the thousands of asteroids that share Jupiter’s orbit around the sun.


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