NASA's Lucy Mission Enters Main Asteroid Belt on Path to Cosmic Journey

Lucy Venture Enters Main Asteroid Belt: Witness Historic Moment as NASA's Discovery Mission Sets Stage for Cosmic Journey

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – Oct. 16, 2022 – Today, NASA's Lucy spacecraft ventured into the main asteroid belt, an intriguing swath of space between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. This pioneering venture marks a significant milestone for the agency's first mission to explore these ancient objects.

The spacecraft's dual deep space maneuver engines fired for 1, eighteen minutes, guiding Lucy comfortably into the asteroid belt. This intricate maneuver doubled the spacecraft's velocity to over 39,600 mph (6.6 km/s) and cemented Lucy's trajectory toward the Inner Main Belt.

"Today we celebrated a significant milestone in the Lucy mission with our foray into the asteroid belt," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. "This exciting journey will provide new insights into these record-breaking asteroids and the role they played in putting us on the path to where we are today."

As Lucy makes its way through the belt, set to arrive at its first target in April 2024, it will provide the science community with critical knowledge to better understand the early solar system. The spacecraft is slated to visit seven unique asteroids during its 12-year mission, marking a turning point in our knowledge of these enigmatic cosmic objects.

"The asteroid belt is a mysterious realm, home to some of the first leftovers from the formation of our solar system," said Lucy principal investigator Larry N. Esposito of the University of Colorado Boulder. "Lucy will uncover the history of these small worlds through close flybys and bring us one step closer to understanding the origin of our solar system."

The asteroid belt has long been a topic of interest for scientists, given its potential insights into the early solar system. However, it remains largely unexplored with only limited data acquired from previous missions. Lucy is designed to fill in these knowledge gaps and deliver invaluable information on the composition, structure, and formation process of the asteroids.

As a Discovery Class mission, Lucy embodies NASA's ongoing dedication to ambitious planetary science investigations. The spacecraft is equipped with a wide range of instruments, such as high-resolution cameras, infrared and color spectrometers, and a radar system. These tools will enable Lucy to gather comprehensive data on all seven asteroids, spanning a diversity of asteroid types.

These targets include two asteroids situated in the Main Belt – 580 Camelia and 164 Eva – with the latter serving as a benchmark for the entire group. Lucy will also investigate asteroids that share its name, including 999 Lotty, 886 Trommel, 11351 Leucus, and 5428 Peponis. The last target, Euryale, is a binary asteroid pairing two objects orbiting each other.

"The asteroid belt is a dynamic and challenging environment," said Lucy project manager John D. Wertz of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. "Successfully navigating through it is a critical step toward our goals of exploring these exciting asteroids."

To accomplish its ambitious mission, Lucy relies on its sophisticated propulsion system, comprising two primary engines and a series of attitude control jets. These engines are designed to propel the spacecraft on its unique journey through the asteroid belt and enable it to adjust its trajectory as needed.

Throughout its voyage, Lucy will deploy its full range of scientific instruments to collect crucial data on each asteroid. Every close flyby targets will provide opportunities for detailed studies, helping scientists unravel the secrets these cosmic remnants hold.

"With every step of Lucy's journey, we are learning more about these intriguing asteroids and the diverse environments of our solar system," said Amy Simon, Lucy's deputy principal investigator at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Base in Maryland. "Lucy is going to revolutionize our understanding of the early solar system and the role these celestial objects played in shaping our planet."

As Lucy ventures deeper into the asteroid belt, NASA scientists and the larger scientific community are poised to gain key insights into these ancient objects. This mission embodies NASA's ongoing endeavors to explore and understand the solar system, driving us closer to a comprehensive understanding of our cosmic surroundings.

This news article is for informational purposes only. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure accuracy, it is not intended to provide legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Should you have any specific questions about any news, please consult a licensed professional.

Read more