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NASA's Lucy Spacecraft Is Gearing Up to Explore the Trojan Asteroids Up-Close

On October 16th, NASA will launch the first space mission to study Jupiter's Trojan asteroids. So far, the agency has already tested the functions of its Lucy spacecraft and filled it with fuel. The next step is to pack it into a capsule ahead of its launch.
An illustration of the Lucy spacecraft near a Trojan asteroid 7 photos
The United Launch Alliance (ULA) Centaur stage for NASA’s Lucy mission is lifted by crane into the Vertical Integration Facility near Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force StationLucy Spacecraft Arrival at Kennedy Space CenterLucy Spacecraft DevelopmentLucy Spacecraft DevelopmentLucy Spacecraft DevelopmentLucy Spacecraft Development
During its 12-year primary mission, the spacecraft will fly past one main asteroid belt and seven Trojans, ancient objects trapped within gravity wells formed by Jupiter and the Sun's combined pull. By exploring these asteroids up-close, Lucy will help scientists understand how our solar system and its planets formed 4.5 billion years ago and what conditions were like back then.

Following its arrival at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Lucy's team members have spent the past eight weeks preparing the spacecraft for the historic journey. All of the machine's mechanical, electrical, and thermal systems have been successfully tested, and its high-gain antenna, which will allow Lucy to communicate with Earth, has already been installed.

Earlier this month, engineers finished filling the one-ton spacecraft's fuel tanks with approximately 1,600 pounds (725 kgs) of liquid hydrazine and liquid oxygen. This fuel will be used for precise maneuvers that will propel Lucy to its asteroid destinations, while its solar arrays will recharge the batteries that will power its instruments.

The next step for NASA is to pack Lucy between the two halves of the launch vehicle fairing, which will close around it to protect it during its launch. In early October, the encapsulated spacecraft will be transported to the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, where it will be positioned atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.

Once mated with the rocket, Lucy will lift off from Space Launch Complex 41 to begin its four-billion-mile odyssey to the "fossils" of our solar system. Lucy's first asteroid flyby is expected to occur in 2025, and the last planned flyby will be in 2033.

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