As part of its gravity assist manoeuvre to gain some of the orbital energy it needs to travel to this population of asteroids that has never been explored before, a NASA spacecraft by the name of Lucy was able to capture a breathtaking image of Earth. The spacecraft also took a photo of the Earth and the Moon together. Lucy is the first mission to the Jupiter Trojan asteroids.
The photograph of Earth was taken by the Lucy spacecraft of NASA at a distance of 620,000 kilometres. According to a statement released by the United States Space Agency, the photograph features a vista of Hadar, Ethiopia, in the upper left corner. Hadar is the location of the 3.2 million-year-old human progenitor fossil for which the spacecraft was named.
Lucy is the first mission to examine the Jupiter Trojan asteroids, which are an ancient population of asteroid “fossils” that orbit around the Sun at the same distance as Jupiter. This population of asteroids has been around for a very long time.
In order for the Lucy spacecraft to reach these far-off asteroids, its path must incorporate three Earth gravity helps along the way. These assists will give the spacecraft a lift as it continues on its trip to these mysterious asteroids.
The image was captured by Lucy’s Terminal Tracking Camera (T2CAM) system, which consists of a pair of cameras that are identical to one another. These cameras are responsible for tracking the asteroids that Lucy encounters as it is travelling at high speeds.
Malin Space Science Systems was responsible for the design, construction, and testing of the T2CAM system. Lockheed Martin was responsible for the integration of the T2CAMs onto the Lucy spacecraft as well as their operation.
In addition, the Lucy spacecraft took a picture of the Earth and the Moon from a distance of around 1.4 million kilometres.
Lucy’s ability to reach the Trojan asteroids, which are tiny bodies that circle the Sun at the same distance as Jupiter, is made possible by the Earth flybys that it does.
During its voyage of 12 years, Lucy will visit a record-breaking number of asteroids and conduct a survey of their diversity in order to find hints that will help scientists better grasp how the solar system came into being.
Published at : 28 Oct 2022 09:52 AM (IST)