Science & Technology

NASA’s bold Lucy mission to Jupiter’s Trojan asteroid is ready to be launched

Lucy explores Jupiter’s trojan asteroids, considered “planet-forming fossils.”Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

SwRI’s Levison, Olkin, is leading a mission to Jupiter’s Trojan asteroid.

NASAThe Lucy spacecraft is encapsulated in a protective fairing above the Atlas V rocket, waiting for the 23-day launch window to open on October 16. As the spacecraft prepares for launch, a mission led by the Southwest Institute begins.A 12-year journey of about 4 billion miles to visit eight record-breaking asteroids (one mainbelt asteroid and seven asteroids) Jupiter Troy Jupiter’s asteroid.

Trojan Horse Asteroid Lucy Spacecraft

The SwRI-led Lucy mission explores eight asteroids in 12 years on a single spacecraft, breaking the record for a spectacular journey to Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids. These diverse, never-before-seen “fossils” from the formation of the solar system reveal much about the origin of the solar system. Credit: NASA

“The trojan Jupiter asteroid is an early wreckage of the solar system, effectively a fossil of the planet-forming process,” said Harold Lebison of SwRI, Principal Investigator of the Mission. “They have important clues to decipher the history of our solar system. Lucy, like the fossils of the human ancestors named, will revolutionize our understanding of our origins. prize.”

Rocket fairing Lucy

The Lucy spacecraft was pushed into the launch rocket fairing and closed around it like a clamshell in preparation for the launch. Its first launch attempt is scheduled for October 16 at 5:34 EST from Cape Canaveral, Florida. As the spacecraft travels 4 billion miles to Troy’s Jupiter asteroid, the SwRI-led Lucy mission will explore eight asteroids in 12 years. Credit: NASA / KSC

The Lucy mission is the first space mission to explore this diverse group of asteroids known as Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids. These small bodies are trapped in a stable orbit shared with the largest planets in the solar system, forming two “swarms” that guide and track Jupiter in the path around the Sun.

“Lucy’s ability to fly so many targets means that not only can we see this unexplored population up close first, but we can also study why these asteroids look so different. “I will,” said Kathy Olkin, Vice-Principal of SwRI. Mission investigator. “This mission gives us an unparalleled glimpse into the formation of our solar system and helps us understand the evolution of the entire planetary system.”

Following the pandemic protocol, Lucy team members spent nearly two months at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida preparing the spacecraft for flight. Engineers tested the spacecraft’s mechanical, electrical, and thermal systems and practiced launch sequences from mission operations centers in Kennedy and Lockheed Martin Space, Littleton, Colorado.

“Launching a spaceship is like sending a kid to college. You’ve done everything you can to prepare your kid to take the next big step,” Lebison said. “Lucy is ready to fly.”

Lucy’s first launch attempt is scheduled for October 16th at 5:34 am EDT. That day, the team will be “called to the station” at 1 am to monitor the spacecraft and perform a complete launch countdown procedure. If the scrub starts on that day due to weather or other issues, the team will have the opportunity to start additional every morning over the next few weeks.

Harold Lebison and Kathy Olkin

Lucy’s mission is led by Dr. Hallevison, Principal Investigator of SwRI, and Dr. Kathy Olkin, Deputy Principal Investigator. Credit: SwRI

SwRI is Lucy’s leading research institute. NASA Goddard provides overall mission management, system engineering, and safety and mission assurance. Lockheed Martin Space in Littleton, Colorado built the spacecraft. Lucy is NASA’s 13th mission in the Discovery Program. NASA’s NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama manages the Discovery Program of the institution’s Science Missions Department in Washington. The launch is managed by NASA’s launch service program, which is based in Kennedy.

NASA’s bold Lucy mission to Jupiter’s Trojan asteroid is ready to be launched NASA’s bold Lucy mission to Jupiter’s Trojan asteroid is ready to be launched

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