It's not long now until we'll watch NASA's Lucy asteroid mission launch and see the start of a new study of the asteroids around Jupiter. Those asteroids, known as Trojans, are said to contain clues about how our solar system was forged. Lucy is NASA's first spacecraft that will study these asteroids.
Approved back in January 2017, Lucy is part of the NASA Discovery program, and named after a female fossil (the Australopithecus afarensis) found in Ethiopia. That fossil — discovered in 1974 — helped us better understand the evolution of man, and some hope or believe that the Trojans adjacent to Jupiter could key us into more details about the early history of life on Earth.
NASA's Lucy asteroid mission launch start time
The launch is scheduled for 5:34 a.m. ET / 2:34 a.m. PT / 10:34 a.m. BST today (Saturday, October 16), but coverage starts a bit earlier, on the hour at 5 a.m. ET / 2 a.m. PT / 10 a.m. BST.
How to watch NASA's Lucy asteroid mission launch
While news networks may or may not cover the Lucy astroid mission launch, we know NASA will. The free-to-watch NASA TV will have two hours of live coverage of the launch today from 5 to 7 a.m. ET. If you want the launch on your TV, pull up the YouTube app and open the official stream of NASA TV on NASA's YouTube channel.
Want more? NASA is inviting the public to get more detail about the event by registering (for free) over at Eventbrite. There, you will be provided "access to curated launch resources," and "communications about launch schedule changes" as well as "information about highlighted launch related activities." Basically, if you want all of the data, sign up.
NASA's Lucy asteroid mission schedule
All three briefings for the Lucy launch have now taken place, and can be watched on YouTube; you'll find links below. Today (Saturday, October 16), the Lucy launch is scheduled to happen at 5:34 a.m. ET.
All times listed below are in Eastern Time (ET).
- Wednesday, Oct. 13 @ 1 p.m.: Lucy pre-launch media briefing
- Thursday, Oct. 13 @ 1 p.m.: Lucy science media briefing
- Thursday, Oct. 13 @ 3 p.m.: Lucy engineering media briefing
- Saturday, Oct. 15 @ 5 a.m.: Lucy launch coverage begins
- Saturday, Oct. 15 @ 5:34 a.m.: Lucy launch takes place
How NASA's Lucy asteroid mission will work
Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator at NASA's Science Mission Directorate, described Lucy's importance as the ability to examine "millions of pieces" that we haven't observed, at the NASA pre-launch media briefing. At that same briefing, Dr. Hal Levinson (Lucy's principal investigator) of the Southwest Research Institute explained that the Trojan asteroids lead or follow Jupiter in its orbit.
Lucy won't be approaching the Trojans directly, but will instead be using amazing trajectories. Lucy first has a one-year orbit around Earth, and will then use a series of Earth-gravity assists to change its orbit. Lucy will then soar to the Trojans with these gravity assists.
We will see Lucy's launch today, but Lucy's mission is not a short one. As Dr. Levinson explained, the final analysis of the asteroids will take place in 2033.
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