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Ahead of Gravity Assist, NASA’s Lucy Spacecraft Captures Images of Earth and Moon

NASA’s Lucy spacecraft captured this image (which has been cropped) of the Earth on October 15, 2022, as a part of an instrument calibration sequence at a distance of 380,000 miles (620,000 km). Credit: NASA/Goddard/SwRI

NASA’s Lucy made a close fly-by of planet Earth on October 16, as part of a gravity assist maneuver. Shortly before its closest approach, the spacecraft captured images of the Earth and Moon.

On October 15, 2022, at a distance of 380,000 miles (620,000 km), NASA’s Lucy spacecraft captured this image (which has been cropped) of the Earth as a part of an instrument calibration sequence. The upper left of the image includes a view of Hadar, Ethiopia. This is home to the 3.2 million-year-old human ancestor fossil for which the spacecraft was named.

Lucy is the first mission to explore the Jupiter Trojan asteroids. This ancient population of asteroid “fossils” orbit around the Sun at the same distance as Jupiter. To reach these distant asteroids, the Lucy spacecraft’s trajectory includes three Earth gravity assists to boost it on its long journey to these mysterious asteroids.

Lucy Spacecraft Earth and Moon

On October 13, 2022, NASA’s Lucy spacecraft captured this image of the Earth and the Moon from a distance of 890,000 miles (1.4 million km). The image was taken as part of an instrument calibration sequence as the spacecraft approached Earth for its first of three Earth gravity assists. Credit: NASA/Goddard/SwRI

NASA’s Lucy spacecraft captured the above image of the Earth and the Moon from a distance of 890,000 miles (1.4 million km) on October 13, 2022.  The image was taken as part of an instrument calibration sequence as the spacecraft approached Earth for its first of three Earth gravity assists. These Earth flybys provide Lucy with the speed required to reach the Trojan asteroids — small bodies that orbit the Sun at the same distance as Jupiter. Lucy will fly by a record-breaking number of asteroids on its 12-year journey. It will survey their diversity, looking for clues to better understand the formation of the solar system.

Both images in this article were taken with Lucy’s Terminal Tracking Camera (T2CAM) system, a pair of identical cameras that are responsible for tracking the asteroids during Lucy’s high-speed encounters. The T2CAM system was designed, built, and tested by Malin Space Science Systems; Lockheed Martin Integrated the T2CAMs onto the Lucy spacecraft and operates them.

Lucy launched on October 16, 2021, to begin its 12-year, 4-billion-mile mission to study ancient Trojan asteroids, “fossils” of planet formation.

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