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NASA’s Lucy spacecraft buzzes around Earth on the first anniversary of the launch of a mission to explore Jupiter

NASA
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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.

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The launch clock showing a digital readout for NASA's Lucy spacecraft for a mission to study the Trojan asteroids in the outer solar system as the Kennedy Space Center press office prepares for launch from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA, prepared October 15, 2021.

The launch clock showing a digital readout for NASA’s Lucy spacecraft for a mission to study the Trojan asteroids in the outer solar system as the Kennedy Space Center press office prepares for launch from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA, prepared October 15, 2021.
(REUTERS/Steve Nesius)

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.

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the Lucy spacecraft is seen in this 2 minute 30 second exposure as it lifts off from Space Launch Complex 41 on Saturday, October 14.  November 2021 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the Lucy spacecraft is seen in this 2 minute 30 second exposure as it lifts off from Space Launch Complex 41 on Saturday, October 14. November 2021 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
(Image credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

NASA’S DART MISSION SUCCESSFULLY REACHES THE ASTEROID INTO A NEW ORBIT

Lucy will observe the asteroid Donaldjohanson before traveling to the Trojan asteroids.

The spacecraft will pass by Eurybates, Queta, Polymele, Leucus and Orus.

A close-up of NASA's Lucy spacecraft, launched on August 9, 2021. Lucy is scheduled for launch no earlier than Saturday, October 1, 2021.  16, on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 rocket from Launch Pad 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

A close-up of NASA’s Lucy spacecraft, launched on August 9, 2021. Lucy is scheduled for launch no earlier than Saturday, October 1, 2021. 16, on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 rocket from Launch Pad 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
(NASA/Glenn Benson)

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.

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The agency noted that it would be used Lucy’s pictures of the earth and moon while it flies by to calibrate its instruments.

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