A close flyby of Earth by NASA's Lucy

NASA’s asteroid-hunting equipment, Lucy, has made a close flyby of Earth. During the close flyby, the spacecraft moved at a height of just 220 miles or 350 km from Earth’s surface. NASA’s Lucy mission is the first mission aimed at the Jupiter and Trojan asteroids. Trojan asteroids or trojans are the asteroids present in Jupiter’s orbit around the sun. So far, we have identified around 4,800 Trojan asteroids. The Trojan asteroids are considered the remnants of an earlier solar system, which could contain the secrets related to the formation of the solar system.  There are two different groups of Trojan asteroids, one group is orbiting ahead of Jupiter, and the other group is orbiting behind Jupiter. These asteroids are expected to guide astronomers toward the secrets of solar system formation. According to the mission details given by NASA, Lucy is expected to visit one asteroid from the main asteroid belt and the seven Trojan asteroids. The Lucy mission was launched last year on October 16, 2021. NASA stated that this is for the first time that a single aircraft will be evaluating such a high number of asteroids. Bill Nelson, the administrator at NASA, stated that the mission embodies NASA’s vision to visit the cosmos to explore. Yesterday, the spacecraft completed its first flyby close to Earth to get slingshot to outer space. This flyby is expected to provide the required speed to the spacecraft so it can reach its desired destination. After around two years, Lucy will return to the Earth to receive another slingshot using the Earth’s gravitational field, to get propelled further.  NASA announced on NASA Solar System’s Twitter the event of Lucy passing by Earth for its first gravitational slingshot into space. In their Twitter post, NASA Solar System mentioned that NASA's Lucy Mission completed its first earth gravity assist, passing by from Earth by a distance of 220 miles or 350 km. NASA Solar System also announced that the Lucy mission will be returning in two years for its second earth assist. During this close flyby, Lucy was so close to the earth that the observers from Earth were easily able to see the spacecraft. It was closer to the Earth than the International Space Station. The two team members from the Lucy mission successfully followed the spacecraft during its close flyby and managed to capture its vision from the surface of Earth using a telescope. They have shared the footage on Lucy Mission Twitter handle.  Lucy’s journey towards the Trojan asteroids will be for a total of 12 years. As announced by NASA, for the first time any spacecraft will be visiting such a high number of trojan asteroids. The data which Lucy will collect during its visit will be extremely valuable to the researchers working on finding the secrets behind the formation of our solar system. The formation of our solar system dates back to 4.5 billion years ago. So far, the widely accepted theory is that the solar system has formed from a cloud of gasses and dust. Trojan asteroids will be able to provide more insights regarding this and other proposed theories.