NASA’s Lucy mission is making remarkable progress as it approaches Asteroid Dinkinesh, employing precise maneuvers to refine its trajectory. The spacecraft, led by principal investigator Hal Levison, has observed the asteroid becoming brighter and identified a consistent brightness variation, indicating a rotation period of 52.7 hours.
In a strategic move, a minor trajectory correction maneuver was executed on September 29, adjusting the spacecraft’s speed by 6 cm/s (0.1 mph). This adjustment is crucial for guiding Lucy to pass within 265 miles (425 km) of the asteroid. The team is ready for additional trajectory adjustments in late October if needed.
Entering a planned communication blackout behind the Sun on October 6, Lucy continued capturing images of the asteroid. Despite the blackout, the spacecraft remains operational, and images taken during this period will be transmitted back to Earth after the solar conjunction concludes in mid-October.
Hal Levison, leading the Lucy mission from the Southwest Research Institute, has been utilizing high-resolution images from the L’LORRI camera to enhance navigation precision. The success of the mission involves a collaborative effort, with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center overseeing mission management, system engineering, safety, and mission success. Lockheed Martin Space, responsible for constructing the Lucy spacecraft, is based in Littleton, Colorado.
NASA’s Discovery Program manages Lucy as its 13th mission, with oversight from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters. Lucy’s mission to explore Trojan asteroids around Jupiter signifies a significant step forward in understanding the solar system’s early history.
As Lucy continues its journey towards Asteroid Dinkinesh, the team remains vigilant and prepared for further adjustments to ensure the mission’s success. The spacecraft’s encounters with other Trojan asteroids will provide valuable insights into the mysteries of our celestial neighborhood.