NASA's new Lucy asteroid spacecraft faces solar panel glitch

Lucy successfully lifted off on Oct 16 from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, US. But on Sunday, NASA announced that one of Lucy's 24-foot-wide solar panels may not be working well

Representative image
Representative image


NASA's newly launched Lucy spacecraft, the US space agency's first-ever mission to explore distant asteroids and seek out the origin of our solar system, has faced some issues with one of it solar panels, the agency has said.

Lucy successfully lifted off on October 16 from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida in the US. But on Sunday, NASA announced that one of Lucy's 24-foot-wide solar panels may not be working well.

While the 12-year asteroid mission is safe and healthy, one of the two solar array is not be fully latched, NASA said in a statement.

"NASA's #LucyMission is safe & stable. The two solar arrays have deployed, but one may not be fully latched. The team is analysing data to determine next steps," Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at the agency's Headquarters in Washington, D.C., wrote on Twitter.

NASA said the mission team is working on analysing the problem and will come up with next steps in the days ahead.

"Lucy spacecraft systems show the spacecraft is operating well and is stable," NASA added in a blogpost.

Meanwhile, it said all other system is working well and both of the solar arrays are producing power and charging the battery .

"All other subsystems are normal. In the current spacecraft attitude, Lucy can continue to operate with no threat to its health and safety. The team is analysing spacecraft data to understand the situation and determine next steps to achieve full deployment of the solar array," the blogpost said.

Lucy's solar panels are a crucial part of the spacecraft's ambitious mission to get scientists their first-ever up-close look at asteroids that orbit in the same path as Jupiter, called the Trojans.

Lucy will explore the Trojan asteroids with a suite of remote sensing instruments. Additionally, the navigation cameras will be used to determine the shapes of the Trojan asteroids.

Jupiter's Trojan Asteroids are small bodies that are remnants of our early solar system, now trapped in stable orbits associated with, but not close to, the giant planet Jupiter.

These primitive bodies hold vital clues to deciphering the history of the solar system.

Moreover, when Lucy is making its flybys, it will break the record for the farthest from the sun a spacecraft has run exclusively on solar power.

The mission takes its name from the fossilised human ancestor (called "Lucy" by her discoverers) whose skeleton provided unique insight into humanity's evolution.

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