Lucy completes its first Earth gravity assist after a year in space

A year after its launch, NASA’s Jupiter Trojan asteroid explorer Lucy has completed its first of multiple Earth gravity assists on its journey to explore nine asteroids. Lucy is a first-of-its-kind mission to visit several Trojan asteroids in Jupiter’s L4 and L5 Lagrange points. The mission’s closest approach to Earth occurred on Oct. 16 at 7:04 AM EDT (11:04 UTC). Lucy Instruments and Flyby Since its launch on Oct. 16, 2021, Lucy has been operating in cruise mode in a heliocentric orbit around the Sun. The cruise mode allows Lucy substantial autonomy as it coasts between significant events. The three primary science instruments are inactive during cruise mode; however, in November 2021, they were turned on for system checkouts. Mission controllers then turned them back off after the checkouts. To ensure a close flyby of Earth, Lucy completed multiple correction maneuvers and minor burns to place the spacecraft on a trajectory as close to Earth as possible. In preparation for the flyby, Lucy completed a correction maneuver on June 21. Since June, Lucy has been in limited communications caused by the thermal conditions of its position relative to Earth and the Sun. Because of this, its high-gain antenna…

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Lucy completes its first Earth gravity assist after a year in space

Updated: October 15, 2022 — 10:27 am