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How scientists fixed the Lucy probe’s solar array while it was in space

  • Published
    5th Aug, 2022
Context

Data from the probe indicated that one of the solar arrays powering it, designed to unfurl like a hand fan, had not fully opened. A recent NASA press statement reveals how mission engineers were able to diagnose and solve the problem.

About

Lucy Probe:

  • Lucy will be the first space mission to study the Trojans.
  • The mission takes its name from the fossilized human ancestor (called “Lucy” by her discoverers) whose skeleton provided unique insight into humanity's evolution.
  • Likewise, the Lucy mission will revolutionize our knowledge of planetary origins and the formation of the solar system.
  • Currently on a 12-year-old journey, Lucy will become the first man-made object to fly past one of the trojan asteroids in 2027.
  • However, Lucy's first encounter with the asteroids will occur in 2024 when it comes across the Donaldjohanson asteroid into the main asteroid belt.
  • According to NASA, all of the spacecraft's flyby will occur between 2027 and 2033 after it will arrive at its main target in 2025.
  • The reason for choosing the trojan asteroids is the possibility of these primitive objects hiding new discoveries about the early solar system. 

What happened?

  • One of Lucy's solar arrays, which was supposed to open 360 degrees in order to power the spacecraft, got stuck and failed to fully unfurl.
  • After constant efforts of powering the motor and forcing the array outward, NASA confirmed that it is now between 353 degrees and 357 degrees open.
  • While the array is not fully latched, it is under substantially more tension, making it stable enough for the spacecraft to operate as needed for mission operations

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