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A NASA spacecraft will pass close to Earth on Sunday

(CNN) — This Sunday, a spaceship named Lucy will be in the sky.

NASA’s Lucy spacecraft will skirt Earth, coming within a few hundred kilometers of us on its journey to Jupiter’s distant Trojan asteroids.

The spacecraft will pass about 350 kilometers above the Earth’s surface on Sunday morning, according to a NASA press release.

And some lucky observers will be able to see Lucy, the space agency reported.

The spacecraft will be visible from Western Australia around 6:55 a.m. EST. But it will disappear from view after just a few minutes. At 7:26 a.m. EST, it should be visible over the western United States, assuming the sky is clear and observers have a decent pair of binoculars.

Getting this close to Earth will require the spacecraft to navigate through an area dense with satellites and debris. NASA is implementing special procedures to prevent Lucy from colliding with anything during her journey.

“The Lucy team has prepared two different maneuvers,” Coralie Adam, Lucy deputy navigation team team leader from KinetX Aerospace, said in the statement. “If Lucy is detected to be at risk of colliding with a satellite or a piece of debris, then — 12 hours before closest approach to Earth — the spacecraft will execute one of these, altering the closest approach time by two. or four seconds.

“It’s a small correction, but it’s enough to avoid a potentially catastrophic collision.”

This illustration shows the Lucy spacecraft passing one of the Trojan asteroids near Jupiter.

The 12-year Lucy mission was launched in October 2021. Its goal is to explore the swarms of Trojan asteroids orbiting Jupiter. Asteroids have never been directly observed before; the image in this article shows only an illustration of Lucy approaching one of the asteroids. But if all goes according to plan, Lucy will provide the first high-resolution images of the asteroids.

The spacecraft will pass by Earth a total of three times during its mission. Entering Earth’s orbit gives Lucy the boost she needs to continue on her path.

“The last time we saw the spacecraft, it was encased in the cargo fairing in Florida,” said Hal Levison, Lucy’s principal investigator at the Southwest Research Institute’s Boulder, Colorado, office. “It’s exciting that we can be here in Colorado and see the spacecraft again.

“And this time Lucy will be in heaven.”

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