NASA’s Mission to Visit 8 Asteroids, Lucy, Launches on October 16th

An early morning launch is planned for the Lucy spacecraft, the first space mission to study Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids. Tomorrow, October 16 at 5:34 a.m. EDT is the first day and time in Lucy’s 21-day launch window, and current weather conditions show a 90% chance of favorable conditions for liftoff from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The launch window remains open for 75 minutes.

Lucy will embark on a 12-year mission to explore the “fossils of planet formation,” Jupiter’s Trojan asteroid swarms. This mission provides the first opportunity to observe these intriguing objects close-up.

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Why Visit Just one Moon When you Could Explore Them all?

The Solar System’s moons are intriguing objects for exploration. Especially moons like Europa and Enceladus. Their subsurface oceans make them primary targets in the search for life.

But why not send one spacecraft to visit several moons? NASA’s about to launch its Lucy mission which will visit 8 separate asteroids. Could the same be done for a mission to multiple moons?

For a spacecraft to do that, it would have to do a little dance with the notorious three-body problem, which makes a stubborn partner. A new study presents a possible way to do that.

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NASA Spacecraft Takes a Picture of Jupiter … From the Moon

You know the feeling …. seeing Jupiter through your own telescope. If it gives you the chills — like it does for me — then you’ll know how the team for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter felt when they turned their spacecraft around – yes, the orbiter that’s been faithfully circling and looking down at the Moon since 2008 – and saw the giant planet Jupiter with their camera. If you zoom in on the picture, you can even see Jupiter’s Galilean moons.

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BepiColombo Meets Mercury for the First Time on October 1

BepiColombo made a quick visit to Venus in August and is on to its next rendezvous. On October 1st it’ll perform a flyby of Mercury, the spacecraft’s eventual destination. This visit is just a little flirtation—one of six—ahead of its eventual orbital link-up with Mercury in late 2025.

The quick visit will yield some scientific results, though, and they’ll be just a taste of what’s ahead in BepiColumbo’s one-year mission to Mercury.

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China’s First Space Station Crew is Back From Orbit

On Friday, Sept. 17th, three Chinese astronauts returned safely from space following a three-month stay aboard the new Tiangong space station. This was a major milestone for the Chinese Manned Space (CMS) program, which beats its previous record for the longest crewed mission to space. Whereas the Shenzhou 11 mission (2016) lasted 33 days, the crew of Tang Hongbo, Nie Haisheng, and Liu Boming spent a total of 92 days in orbit.

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Chang’e-5 Returned an Exotic Collection of Moon Rocks

Scientists have begun studying the samples returned from the Moon by China’s Chang’e-5 mission in December 2020, and a group of researchers presented their first findings at the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) last week.

“The Chang’e-5 samples are very diverse, and includes both local and exotic materials, including some glutenates [sharp, jagged lunar particles], silicas, salts, volcanic glasses, and impact glasses, along with different minerals and different rock types,” said Yuqi Qian, a PhD student at the China University of Geosciences, during his presentation at the EPSC virtual meeting.

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New Horizons is Now 50 Astronomical Units Away From the Sun

As the New Horizons spacecraft hurtles out towards interstellar space, it has now reached an historical milestone. On April 17, 2021, New Horizons passed 50 astronomical units, or 50 times Earth’s distance from the Sun. It is just the 5th spacecraft to reach that distance, joining the Voyagers 1 and 2 and the Pioneers 10 and 11.

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Perseverance Will Make Sure it has a Safe Landing

To casual observers, landing a rover on Mars can seem kind of like old news, believe it or not. Especially after all of NASA’s successes. But many are likely not aware of the so-called ‘Mars Curse.‘ The fact is, many of the spacecraft that attempt to land there fail and crash.

Next to run the gauntlet of the Mars Curse is NASA’s Perseverance rover. It’ll attempt its long-awaited landing at Jezero Crater on February 18th. The people at NASA have given the Perseverance rover some finely-tuned tools to get it to the Martian surface safely and to beat the Mars curse.

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