Two days ago on Oct. 16th, NASA successfully launched the Lucy mission from Florida at 5:35 a.m. ET. The aim of the mission is to help scientists 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.
The entirety of the mission will be handled by the mission team from Lockheed Martin who are also in communications with the spacecraft.
The mission includes several visits to different asteroids in order to better understand the solar system’s origins. The lifespan of the mission is expected to last for about 12 years during which Lucy will make a 4 billion mile trip through the solar system.
It will set a record for being the farthest solar-powered mission from the sun and will make a fly-by of eight different asteroids.
The asteroids include one main-belt asteroid and seven Trojan asteroids in orbit around Jupiter.
The main reason these asteroids are targets for the mission is that they’re believed to be leftovers from the formation of the solar system some 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 also made it known after the launch that the systems aboard the Lucy spacecraft were working fine, and the spacecraft itself is 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.