Illustration of Lucy.
Illustration of Lucy. SwRI

The American space agency NASA stated that Ralph, one of the most well-travelled space explorers, is set to explore Jupiter's Trojan asteroids aboard the Lucy spacecraft in 2021.

Since 2006 Ralph not only made several discoveries but also enables the study of the composition and atmospheres of celestial objects. Ralph was named for Ralph Kramden of the television show "The Honeymooners," a character whose wife was named Alice.

NASA said in a statement on Wednesday that in 2021, the Lucy spacecraft will carry a near-twin of Ralph, named "Lucy Ralph" or "L'Ralph" to observe Jupiter's Trojan asteroids, which are the remains from the early days of the solar system. While Lucy will fly by six Trojans and one Main Belt asteroid for the first time the. L'Ralph instrument suite will be studying these diverse group of bodies and will detect the Trojan asteroids' chemical fingerprints.

As per NASA, L'Ralph allows scientists to interpret data provided by the Sun's reflected light that are the fingerprints of different space elements and compounds. These data may help the researchers to have an idea about how organic molecules form in primitive bodies and the entire process might also shed some light on the emergence of life on earth.

L'Ralph's instrument suite contains the Multi-spectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) and the Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array (LEISA) both of which are fed by the same optics, meaning that Ralph can observe both visible and infrared wavelengths. Dennis Reuter, the instrument principal investigator for L'Ralph believes that these dual capabilities are what makes Ralph and its cousin L'Ralph so special.

He said, "Most instruments can image visible or infrared wavelengths, but L'Ralph can do both. We fit everything into this one small package." At NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, Reuter is also the instrument scientist for Ralph on New Horizons."

Lucy's L'Ralph has enhanced technology than the Ralph that flies with New Horizons that was first launched aboard in 2006. The L'Ralph can detect a broader spectrum of electromagnetic radiation, it has a moving mirror that reflects light into L'Ralph instead of requiring movements of the entire spacecraft.