About an hour after launch Saturday, NASA’s Lucy spacecraft will start the delicate process of opening its circular, fan-shaped solar arrays — the largest ever on a deep space probe — to power the asteroid explorer’s 12-year journey into the outer solar system. When it reaches the apex of its interplanetary orbital arc, the Lucy mission will become the most distant spacecraft to ever use solar power, breaking the record set by NASA’s Juno spacecraft orbiting Jupiter. Lucy will fly by eight asteroids during its mission, including seven objects in the Trojan swarms that lead and trail Jupiter in its orbit around the sun. The mission is the first to explore the Trojan asteroids, which scientists say are leftover building blocks similar to objects that came together to form the solar systems giant outer planets. To get there, Lucy will rely on a few engineering innovations. “The most obvious feature that we have on Lucy is our gigantic, amazing solar array wings,” said Katie Oakman, structures mechanisms lead for the Lucy mission at Lockheed Martin,
China’s first six-month human spaceflight mission launched Friday at 12:23 p.m. EDT (1623 GMT). Three Chinese astronauts rode into orbit from the Jiuquan launch base in the Gobi Desert on the Shenzhou 13 spacecraft, heading for a link-up with China’s space station about six-and-a-half hours after liftoff.
China’s first six-month human spaceflight mission, set to become a regular occurrence for the rest of the decade, is poised for launch Friday to kick off a trip to the country’s Tiangong space station. Chinese officials unveiled the astronauts for the Shenzhou 13 mission Thursday, publicly naming commander Zhai Zhigang to lead the crew. He will be joined by veteran astronaut Wang Yaping, who became the second Chinese woman to fly in space in 2013, and first-time space flier Ye Guangfu.