NASA Selects Two Missions to Explore the Early Solar System

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https://flic.kr/p/2mvHXnV View: https://www.flickr.com/photos/nasakennedy/51532192171/


https://flic.kr/p/2mvKdYj View: https://www.flickr.com/photos/nasakennedy/51532439738/


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NASA’s Lucy spacecraft is moved to the horizontal position on a rotation stand inside the Astrotech Space Operations Facility in Titusville, Florida, on Sept. 1, 2021. In view, the high gain antenna and solar arrays have been installed on the Lucy spacecraft. Lucy is scheduled to launch no earlier than Saturday, Oct. 16, on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 rocket from Launch Pad 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. NASA’s Launch Services Program based at Kennedy Space Center is managing the launch. Over its 12-year primary mission, Lucy will explore a record-breaking number of asteroids, flying by one asteroid in the solar system’s main belt and seven Trojan asteroids. Additionally, Lucy’s path will circle back to Earth three times for gravity assists, making it the first spacecraft ever to return to the vicinity of Earth from the outer solar system. Photo credit: NASA/Glenn Benson
 

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View: https://twitter.com/kyle_m_photo/status/1446182159140671489


Lucy on her way to SLC-41 to meet Atlas V #ULA #LucyMission #AtlasV

kylemphoto.com/Galleries/Lucy…
View: https://twitter.com/ulalaunch/status/1446188229280022536


The #LucyMission spacecraft was placed atop the ULA #AtlasV 401 rocket today in preparation to embark on a voyage to uncharted worlds in the Trojan asteroid swarms that orbit near Jupiter.

Read more in the blog: https://blog.ulalaunch.com/blog/lucy-asteroid-hunter-mounted-to-atlas-v-for-launch
 

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Launch Readiness Review Completed for NASA’s Lucy Mission

Linda Herridge Posted on October 13, 2021

Teams gathered to hear presentations from key mission managers as part of an in-depth assessment on the launch readiness of the ULA Atlas V 401 rocket, mission operations, support functions, and the readiness of the Lucy team to support the launch.

After the launch director polled each partner, it was determined that Lucy was ready to launch.

Following the LRR, mission managers with NASA and United Launch Alliance (ULA) shared their excitement and answered questions about the agency’s Lucy mission during a prelaunch news conference today at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Updates on the mission were provided by Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator, NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, along with Omar Baez, Lucy launch director, NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP), and John Elbon, chief operating officer, ULA.

“At the heart of Lucy is the science and how it’s going to talk to us about the Trojans,” Zurbuchen said. “I keep thinking about these millions of pieces out there that we haven’t observed and how it’s so important to go observe them because just like so many of these small worlds, these asteroids that tell us about a chapter of our own story, our own history, in this case, the history perhaps 4 billion years ago or so when the outer planets were forming in the solar system.”

”LSP is excited about the launch of Lucy this Saturday,” Baez said. “Our team is ready, and we look forward to a beautiful launch.”

Also participating were Hal Levison, Lucy principal investigator, Southwest Research Institute, and Donya Douglas-Bradshaw, Lucy project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

“This team has put in so much work in to building a spacecraft that is truly a work of art,” Douglas-Bradshaw said. “It took a team of more than 500 engineers, scientists, and business folks to conceptualize and build the spacecraft that’s going to achieve this amazing science.”

Lucy is scheduled to launch no earlier than 5:34 a.m. EDT Saturday, Oct. 16, on a ULA Atlas V 401 rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at Kennedy Space Center, America’s premier multi-user spaceport, is managing the launch.

According to Jessica Williams, launch weather officer with the 45th Weather Squadron, Space Launch Delta 45 at the Cape, launch of the Lucy spacecraft is 90 percent “go,” with only a 10 percent chance of violating a weather constraint, the cumulus cloud rule.

During its 12-year primary mission, Lucy will explore a record-breaking number of asteroids, including a flyby of one asteroid in the solar system’s main belt and seven Trojan asteroids near Jupiter. Lucy’s path will circle back to Earth three times for gravity assists, making it the first spacecraft to return to the vicinity of Earth from the outer solar system.

 

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NASA, ULA Launch Lucy Mission to ‘Fossils’ of Planet Formation

Linda Herridge Posted on October 16, 2021

NASA’s Lucy mission, the agency’s first to Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, launched at 5:34 a.m. EDT Saturday on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

Over the next 12 years, Lucy will fly by one main-belt asteroid and seven Trojan asteroids, making it the agency’s first single spacecraft mission in history to explore so many different asteroids. Lucy will investigate these “fossils” of planetary formation up close during its journey.

“Lucy embodies NASA’s enduring quest to push out into the cosmos for the sake of exploration and science, to better understand the universe and our place within it,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “I can’t wait to see what mysteries the mission uncovers!”

About an hour after launch, Lucy separated from the second stage of the ULA Atlas V 401 rocket. Its two massive solar arrays, each nearly 24 feet (7.3 meters) wide, successfully unfurled about 30 minutes later and began charging the spacecraft’s batteries to power its subsystems.

“Today’s launch marks a genuine full-circle moment for me as Lucy was the first mission I approved in 2017, just a few months after joining NASA,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s Headquarters in Washington. “A true mission of discovery, Lucy is rich with opportunity to learn more about these mysterious Trojan asteroids and better understand the formation and evolution of the early solar system.”

Lucy sent its first signal to Earth from its own antenna to NASA’s Deep Space Network at 6:40 a.m. EDT. The spacecraft is now traveling at roughly 67,000 mph (108,000 kph) on a trajectory that will orbit the Sun and bring it back toward Earth in October 2022 for a gravity assist.

Named for the fossilized skeleton of one of our earliest known hominin ancestors, the Lucy mission will allow scientists to explore two swarms of Trojan asteroids that share an orbit around the Sun with Jupiter. Scientific evidence indicates that Trojan asteroids are remnants of the material that formed giant planets. Studying them can reveal previously unknown information about their formation and our solar system’s evolution in the same way the fossilized skeleton of Lucy revolutionized our understanding of human evolution.

“We started working on the Lucy mission concept early in 2014, so this launch has been long in the making,” said Hal Levison, Lucy principal investigator, based out of the Boulder, Colorado, branch of Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), which is headquartered in San Antonio. “It will still be several years before we get to the first Trojan asteroid, but these objects are worth the wait and all the effort because of their immense scientific value. They are like diamonds in the sky.”

Lucy’s Trojan destinations are trapped near Jupiter’s Lagrange points – gravitationally stable locations in space associated with a planet’s orbit where smaller masses can be trapped. One swarm of Trojans is ahead of the gas giant planet, and another is behind it. The asteroids in Jupiter’s Trojan swarms are as far away from Jupiter as they are from the Sun.

The spacecraft’s first Earth gravity assist in 2022 will accelerate and direct Lucy’s trajectory beyond the orbit of Mars. The spacecraft will then swing back toward Earth for another gravity assist in 2024, which will propel Lucy toward the Donaldjohanson asteroid – located within the solar system’s main asteroid belt – in 2025.

Lucy will then journey toward its first Trojan asteroid encounter in the swarm ahead of Jupiter for a 2027 arrival. After completing its first four targeted flybys, the spacecraft will travel back to Earth for a third gravity boost in 2031, which will catapult it to the trailing swarm of Trojans for a 2033 encounter.

“Today we celebrate this incredible milestone and look forward to the new discoveries that Lucy will uncover,” said Donya Douglas-Bradshaw, Lucy project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

NASA Goddard provides overall mission management, systems engineering, plus safety and mission assurance. Lockheed Martin Space in Littleton, Colorado, built the spacecraft. Lucy is the 13th mission in NASA’s Discovery Program. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the Discovery Program for the agency.

 

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Good to see that Lucy is alive and all is well after getting launched yesterday and that the solar panels have deployed, hope that NASA can find a way to solve the issue with the bad solar panel that is not fully latched.
 
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