NASA’s Lucy spacecraft skimmed Earth’s atmosphere this morning on the first anniversary of its launch.
It was lower than the International Space Station – just 220 miles above the Earth’s surface – passed satellites and debris and used procedures to avoid any possible collision.
Scientists also had to consider atmospheric drag when designing the flyby.
The satellite was first visible to skywatchers in Western Australia before disappearing into Earth’s shadow.
The 12-year mission, which began on 10/16 last year, is the first mission to the Jupiter asteroid.
The asteroids orbit the sun and are the same distance away as Jupiter.
NASA said the first gravity assist will launch Lucy on a new trajectory for a two-year orbit before returning for another assist giving Lucy the energy to traverse the main asteroid belt.
Lucy will observe the asteroid Donaldjohanson before traveling to the Trojan asteroids.
The spacecraft will pass by Eurybates, Queta, Polymele, Leucus and Orus.
Lucy’s third gravity assist is scheduled for 2030, which will bring her close to the Patroclus-Menoetius binary asteroid pair in the trailing Trojan asteroid swarm.
The agency noted that it would be used Lucy’s pictures of the earth and moon while it flies by to calibrate its instruments.