Lucy’s Milestone Flyby of ‘Dinky’ Asteroid Sets Stage for Epic Solar System Journey

UNITED STATES: On Nov. 1, NASA confirmed its Lucy spacecraft completed a flyby of asteroid Dinkinesh, a relatively small space rock located in the main belt between Mars and Jupiter. This marks a milestone in Lucy’s journey, as Dinkinesh, or ‘Dinky,’ is the first of 10 asteroids the probe will visit over the next 12 years.

Based on the information received from the spacecraft, NASA’s team has determined that the spacecraft is in good health, according to officials in a blog post after the flyby. The team has commanded the spacecraft to start downlinking the data collected during the encounter.

– Advertisement –

In a nutshell, the Lucy mission is part of NASA’s ambitious endeavour to unveil the secrets of our solar system’s past. Though Lucy will also be passing by a few relatively nearby asteroids like Dinky, the probe’s main goal is to fly by a few more distant Trojan asteroids orbiting the sun alongside Jupiter-like bundles of pebbles bound to the gravitational tides of a giant boulder. 

Scientists are interested in learning more about those Trojans because they’re believed to be ancient relics of the solar system, like extra Lego bricks from the box that built the planets.

– Advertisement –

Lucy’s flyby of Dinkinesh can be thought of as a test run in this regard, as many of the spacecraft’s instruments have now been oiled while collecting data about this first asteroid encounter, including a colour imager, high-resolution camera, and infrared spectrometer.

According to the blog post, data from these tools will take about a week to be downlinked to Earth, and the team is “looking forward to seeing how the spacecraft performed during this first in-flight test of a high-speed asteroid encounter.”

– Advertisement –

Next, Lucy will head back to Earth for a gravity assist that’ll help it zoom towards its second asteroid target: 52246 Donaldjohanson — named after the co-discoverer of the Lucy fossil (representative of one of the earliest human ancestors, for which the spacecraft is named), American paleoanthropologist Donald Johanson.

Also Read: NASA’s Lucy Spacecraft Achieves Milestone with Successful Flyby of Asteroid ‘Dinky’


Posted

in

by