Kids News: NASA’s Lucy spacecraft zips past asteroid on way to Jupiter

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NASA’s Lucy spacecraft has passed the first of ten asteroids* on its long journey to Jupiter.

The spacecraft flew past the small asteroid Dinkinesh, about 300 million miles (480 million kilometers) from Earth in the main asteroid belt* beyond Mars. It was “a quick hello,” NASA said, as the spacecraft zoomed past at 10,000 mph on Wednesday.

Coming within 435 km of Dinkinesh, Lucy tested his instruments on a test run on the larger and more attractive* asteroids ahead. Dinkinesh is only 1 km wide and may be the smallest space rock on Lucy’s tour.

Lucy’s main targets are the Trojans, swarms* of unexplored asteroids near Jupiter that are considered time capsules from the dawn of the solar system. The spacecraft will fly past eight Trojans believed to be ten to a hundred times larger than Dinkinesh. In 2033 it will race past the last two asteroids.

NASA launched Lucy two years ago for its nearly $1 billion mission. The spacecraft is named after the 3.2 million year old fossilized* skeletal remains of a human found in Ethiopia in the 1970s. Lucy will then fly past an asteroid named after one of the fossil’s discoverers: Donald Johanson.

NASA confirmed that one of the spacecraft’s two solar wings is still loose. Flight controllers gave up trying to secure it, but it is believed to be stable enough for the entire mission.

This week’s fly-by marks the peak of what NASA calls Asteroid Autumn. NASA returned the first samples of debris* from an asteroid in September. Then in October it launched a spacecraft to a rare, metal-rich asteroid called Psyche.

Unlike these missions, Lucy doesn’t stop at asteroids or collect samples.

It will take at least a week for the spacecraft to return all the photos and data from the flyby.

Until now, Dinkinesh has been just “an unresolved blob in the best telescopes,” said lead scientist Hal Levison of the Southwest Research Institute.



  • asteroids: rocky bodies that revolve around the sun
  • asteroid belt: a region of space between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, where most of the asteroids in our solar system are found
  • seductive: powerfully attractive and interesting
  • swarms: rush
  • Fbony: preserved in a fossil or rock
  • rubble: ruins or waste

NASA on mission to mysterious metal asteroid
Space babies? Mouse embryos survive in orbit
Are Yoda-like creatures real?

1. Who is NASA’s Lucy spacecraft named after?
2. Where is the Dinkinesh asteroid located?
3. Why does NASA celebrate asteroid fall when it is spring?
4. What are the Trojans and what are they according to NASA?
5. What is broken on the spacecraft and is this a problem?


1. Create a logo
Imagine you are an astronaut aboard the Lucy spacecraft. Write a description of your journey along the asteroids. Your description should make your reader feel like he or she is there with you, so use lots of good descriptive words and details.

Time: allow at least 25 minutes to complete this activity.
Curriculum links: English, Science.

2. Extension
Why do you think this spacecraft was named after a 3.2 million year old fossilized skeleton? Write a paragraph explaining your ideas.

Time: Please allow at least 15 minutes to complete this activity.
Curriculum links: English, Science.

1. Get their attention
A headline on an article – or a title on your text – should grab the audience’s attention and tell them to read this now. Choosing the perfect words for a headline or title is therefore very important.

Create three new headlines for the events that occurred in this article. Remember that what you write and how you write it sets the pace for the entire text, so make sure it matches.

Read your headlines to a partner and discuss what the article will be about based on the headline you created. Discuss the tone and mood you set in just a few short words. Does it do the article justice? Will it capture the audience’s attention as you hoped? Would you like to read more?

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