NASA Lucy mission launch was a success

Shane McGlaun - Oct 18, 2021, 5:01am CDT
NASA Lucy mission launch was a success

On October 16, NASA successfully launched the Lucy mission from Florida at 5:35 AM ET. Lucy will help scientists to learn more about the formation of the solar system. The spacecraft was designed, built, and tested by Lockheed Martin, and its successful launch marks the beginning of its operational phase.

Mission teams from Lockheed Martin are in communications with the spacecraft and will handle its operations for the entirety of its mission. It will set a record for being the farthest solar-powered mission from the sun and will visit several asteroids seeking clues about the solar system’s origins. The mission will last for 12 years, and during the 4 billion mile trip through the solar system, Lucy will fly by eight different asteroids.

The asteroids include one main belt asteroid and seven Trojan asteroids in orbit around Jupiter. The asteroids are targeted for the mission because they are believed to be pristine leftovers from the formation of the solar system four billion years ago. Lucy is a particularly robust spacecraft designed to survive temperatures ranging from -250 degrees Fahrenheit to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Asteroids are tracked using autonomous software on the spacecraft. It will fly by its targets at a speed of around 15,000 mph. A mission that spans 12 years means that scientists for multiple generations will have an opportunity to utilize data collected and work on the program itself. Lockheed Martin points out that students currently in fourth grade could find themselves working on the Lucy mission after graduating college.

NASA announced on October 16 that systems aboard the spacecraft were operating well, and the spacecraft itself was stable. The two critical solar arrays had deployed successfully, and both were producing power and charging the battery. NASA said one of the solar arrays was latched, but there were indications the second array may not have fully latched. NASA says the spacecraft can continue to operate with no threat to its health or safety in its current attitude. The team is still working to achieve full deployment of the solar array.

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