The space probe Lucy has been launched with the aim of further research on the solar system. The main target of this probe is Jupiter Trojans. Jupiter’s Trojans are a large group of asteroids that are in the same orbit as Jupiter around the Sun.
But Lucy does not travel directly to Jupiter’s orbit; Instead, it does so using arcing maneuvers. This space probe has also circled the Earth in one of these maneuvers, and a few lucky space observers have been able to see Lucy before returning to space.
NASA’s space probe had reached a distance of 220 miles from the Earth’s surface at 7:40 on Sunday, October 16th. Of course, the plans were for Lucy to come even closer than this distance, but due to the problem in one of the probe’s solar panels, the team that created it preferred not to risk it and pass it at a greater distance from the Earth’s surface.
Two solar panels have been used in Lucy, but after the launch, one of the panels did not work properly and was not locked in place. In fact, as stated by the production team, this screen is fully extended after launch, but not completely locked in place. Due to the force of the earth’s gravity, the approach of this probe to the earth’s surface could cause problems in this panel.
NASA space project manager Rich Barnes said: “In the initial planning, our plan was for Lucy to orbit about 30 miles closer to Earth’s orbit, but when it became clear to us that its solar panel was not latching, we did not take risks and preferred “Let’s preserve the probe’s reserve fuel and let Lucy pass at a greater distance from the earth’s surface so that the earth’s gravity does not have a negative effect on the operation of its solar panel.”
After passing the Earth, Lucy also passed by the Moon and got a chance to take pictures of the Moon. These images will be used for calibration, as the Moon closely resembles the asteroids that Lucy will investigate.
“I’m very excited about the last pictures Lucy will take of the Moon,” said John Spencer, one of the scientists involved in the project. Hole counting is essential to better understand the evolution of client Trojans, and this will be possible thanks to Lucy’s data. Taking pictures of the moon’s holes is the first opportunity to test Lucy’s ability to find holes. “The images taken by Lucy will be compared with other available images to better measure its performance.”