The Lucy spacecraft from NASA successfully passes by the initial asteroid out of a total of 10 on its extensive trip towards Jupiter.

The Lucy spacecraft, operated by NASA, reached its first of 10 asteroids on its way to Jupiter on Wednesday, at Cape Canaveral, Florida.

On Wednesday, the spacecraft made a close flyby of the small asteroid Dinkinesh, which is located 300 million miles (480 million kilometers) away in the asteroid belt after Mars. NASA described it as a brief encounter, with the spacecraft traveling at a speed of 10,000 mph (16,000 kph).

Lucy approached Dinkinesh at a distance of 270 miles (435 kilometers), utilizing its instruments in a practice run for the larger and more captivating asteroids to come. Dinkinesh measures just half a mile (1 kilometer) in diameter, potentially making it the smallest rock on Lucy’s itinerary.

Lucy focuses primarily on the Trojans, which are groups of uncharted asteroids located near Jupiter. These asteroids are believed to be remnants of the early solar system and are considered to be time capsules. The spacecraft will fly by eight Trojans, estimated to be 10 to 100 times larger than Dinkinesh. It is scheduled to pass by the remaining two asteroids in 2033.

Two years ago, NASA embarked on a nearly $1 billion mission with the launch of Lucy. The spacecraft is named after the fossilized remains of a human ancestor, known as Lucy, which were discovered in Ethiopia in the 1970s and are estimated to be 3.2 million years old. In its next phase, Lucy will fly by an asteroid named after one of the individuals credited with its discovery, Donald Johanson.

The spacecraft’s second solar panel is still unsecured. Attempts to secure it were abandoned by flight controllers, but it is thought to be stable for the duration of the mission.

NASA has dubbed Wednesday’s flyby as part of “Asteroid Autumn.” In September, NASA successfully retrieved samples of debris from an asteroid. This was followed by the launch of a probe to investigate a unique, metal-heavy asteroid known as Psyche in October.

Lucy will not make any stops at asteroids or gather any samples, unlike other missions.

The spacecraft will need at least one week to transmit all of its images and information from the flyby.

According to Hal Levison, the lead scientist at Southwest Research Institute, Dinkinesh has previously only appeared as “an unclear blur in the most advanced telescopes.”


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