Science

NASA’s Lucy spacecraft greets Earth because it explores Trojan asteroids

NASA’s Lucy spacecraft greets Earth because it explores Trojan asteroids

A 12 months after launch, NASA’s Lucy spacecraft has come near Earth, snapping footage of our dwelling planet because it continues its 12-year journey to review asteroids believed to be fossils of our photo voltaic system.

Lucy will make three flybys of Earth, every offering a gravitational increase into deep house to review a bunch of objects often called the Trojan asteroids. These asteroids are manufactured from the identical supplies as the large planets of our photo voltaic system: Jupiter, Saturn, and Uranus.

Related to Jupiter, for the reason that asteroids share the identical orbit, the 2 teams of Trojan asteroids transfer forward of Jupiter and path the fuel big.

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Lucy was named after a fossil found in Ethiopia in 1974. The skeleton, one of many oldest identified human ancestors, was named after The Beatles’ music “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” after an evening of celebrating the invention whereas listening to the band’s songs.

United Launch Alliance is profitable put Lucy into orbit earlier than dawn on October 16, 2021by launching an Atlas V rocket from the Cape Canaveral House Drive Station in Florida.

In response to NASA, Lucy flew by Earth a 12 months later, coming inside 220 miles of the floor. This maneuver sends Lucy into house for a two-year orbit earlier than the spacecraft returns for a second gravity help. The spacecraft will collide with its first Trojan asteroids in 2027 earlier than a last influence with Earth in 2030.

The shut encounter was an opportunity for Lucy’s group on Earth to calibrate the spacecraft’s devices by taking footage of Earth and the Moon. The pictures had been taken by Lucy’s Terminal Monitoring Digital camera System (T2CAM), a pair of cameras operated by Lockheed Martin that may later observe the Trojan asteroids throughout Lucy’s encounters.

Lucy’s physique is the dimensions of a giant freezer and has two big photo voltaic wings unfold 24 toes every to make sure the mission. Nevertheless, shortly after launch, NASA engineers found that considered one of Lucy’s wings was not opening correctly, and the groups needed to repair the issue. Now the wing is open about 355 levels out of 360, however even that slight distinction meant altering Lucy’s recreation plan for the Earth slingshot.

“The unique plan was for Lucy to come back inside about 30 miles of Earth,” mentioned Lucy mission supervisor Wealthy Burns of NASA’s Goddard House Flight Heart. “Nevertheless, when it turned clear that we’d have to do that flyby with one of many photo voltaic arrays unfastenedwe determined to make use of a few of our gasoline reserves to permit the spacecraft to fly previous Earth at a barely greater altitude, lowering the drag from the spacecraft’s photo voltaic arrays.”

Lucy’s trajectory took the spacecraft via a crowded low-Earth orbit zone filled with satellites and particles. The group ready two completely different maneuvers in case Lucy is at risk of colliding with a bit of house particles. About 12 hours earlier than closest strategy, the spacecraft carried out considered one of its maneuvers to keep away from any doubtlessly catastrophic collisions.

It simply so occurs that Lucy’s image of Earth consists of Hadar, Ethiopia, dwelling to the three.2-million-year-old fossils for which the spacecraft was named.

Lucy flew nearer to Earth than the orbit of the Worldwide House Station and was even seen to individuals on Earth in Western Australia and elements of the US


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