UNITED STATES: The Lucy mission spacecraft is on its more than 6-billion-kilometre trip to examine the Jupiter Trojan asteroids, and NASA announced that it is adding a new target for the mission.
To undertake an engineering test of the spacecraft’s asteroid-tracking navigation system, Lucy will acquire a close-up view of the new target, a tiny main-belt asteroid, on November 1, 2023.
The asteroid known as 1999 VD57 (152830) was not previously a target as it was very small. NASA estimates that at approximately 700 metres in size, 1999 VD57 will be the smallest main belt asteroid ever visited by a spacecraft.
The asteroid is bigger than the previously explored main belt and is comparable in size to the asteroids visited by the DART mission and the OSIRIS-REx mission.
The mission’s main investigator, Hal Levison, asserts that most previous flyby missions have taken several images of the region where the potential asteroid resides to accommodate this uncertainty. Due to the numerous impressions of empty space, efficiency is decreased.
But Lucy will be the first flyby mission to employ a cutting-edge, complex technology that can track asteroids independently as they approach. With this strategy, Lucy should be able to photograph its chosen targets much more frequently.
For the first time, Lucy is examining the Trojan asteroids, which orbit the sun at the same distance as Jupiter.
Since it is believed that the same components that built the planets during the solar system’s formation approximately four billion years ago also produced the Trojan asteroids, also referred to as an “ancient population of asteroid fossils.”
In October last year, Lucy engaged in the first of the mission’s three “slingshot manoeuvres” around the planet.
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