This week, NASA will be launching its newest explorer: Lucy, a spacecraft that will be traveling to the asteroids near Jupiter to learn about how the solar system formed. Lucy will launch early in the morning on Saturday, October 16 on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, and we’ve got the details on how you can watch the launch live.
What Lucy will be exploring
Artist’s illustration of the Lucy concept. Southwest Research Institute
Lucy will be heading out into the solar system to visit the Trojans, a group of asteroids in the orbit of Jupiter. These are believed to be leftovers from the formation of the outer planets, from a period more than 4 billion years ago.
“Over its 12-year primary mission, Lucy will explore a record-breaking number of asteroids,” NASA writes. “The spacecraft will fly by one asteroid in the solar system’s main belt and seven Trojan asteroids. Lucy’s path will circle back to Earth three times for gravity assists, which will make it the first spacecraft ever to return to our planet’s vicinity from the outer solar system.”
To learn more about Lucy’s goals, we spoke to the mission’s principal investigator, Hal Levison, about how it could unravel the mysteries of the solar system’s formation.
How to watch the launch
NASA will be livestreaming the launch of Lucy, as well as a variety of prelaunch activities like preparing for liftoff and commentary from experts. You can watch online either using the video embedded at the top of this page or by heading to NASA’s website.
The coverage of the launch will begin at 5 a.m. ET (2 a.m. PT) on Saturday, October 16. The launch itself is scheduled for 5:34 a.m. ET (2:34 a.m. PT).
If you want to learn more about the mission, there are two days of briefings and information that will be shown before the launch. On Thursday, October 14 there will be a live Lucy Rollout Show at 10 a.m. ET (7 a.m. PT) following by a science briefing at 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT) with the researchers who will be working with the Lucy data, followed by an engineering briefing at 3 p.m. ET (12 p.m. PT) with the engineers who built the spacecraft.
On Friday, October 15 you can hear from NASA scientists about the mission in a briefing scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET (12:30 p.m. PT).