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NASA’s ‘Lucy’ mission featured at Los Alamos ScienceFest

A highlight of the Los Alamos ScienceFest is an update on NASA’s ‘Lucy’ mission, a space vehicle that will soon blast off to explore Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids. (Courtesy of NASA)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

Even as the Mars Rover is exploring our closest neighboring planet, NASA is preparing a mission bound for farther reaches of our solar system.

Discussing the upcoming “Lucy” mission to Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids is one of the highlights of this coming week’s annual Los Alamos ScienceFest, which runs through next Sunday.

Last year’s event was online because of the virus and some of this year’s events – such as Kara Rock’s “Lucy” presentation – will also be virtual.

But there will be plenty of hands-on stuff going on, too.

“We’re thrilled to be welcoming back locals and visitors to celebrate what our community is best known for – groundbreaking science,” said Kelly Stewart, Los Alamos County spokeswoman.

A panel on Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Fuller Lodge lawn will discuss COVID & Disease Modeling. Leading experts in disease modeling will answer questions about tracking, understanding and forecasting the virus. Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers will bring scientific knowledge and statistical expertise to show how math and modeling cross in prediction efforts, lead decision-making and support long-term strategies for global health.

Thursday will feature a recorded video tour of Virgin Galactic and a Q&A session at the Fuller Lodge with Katie Westley, Galactic Unite associate manager.

On Friday at 7 p.m., the Los Alamos Nature Center Planetarium will present “Preserving Our Dark Skies” and a light pollution demonstration. It will look at how light pollution affects our view of the night sky using special effects in the planetarium. It will show sky glow and light domes over cities, and how these can have negative effects on sky-watching.

On Sunday at 11 a.m., Kara Rock, a University of South Florida Physics and Education student, will discuss the “Lucy” mission before coming to New Mexico the following week to meet with students in Los Alamos and Española Valley.

Rock is a “Lucy” Ambassador working with L’Space Academies

“I’m looking forward to getting out and telling people about the amazing science that’s happening,” she said of the 12-year mission scheduled to blast off in October. “We’ve been exploring our world for a very long time, finding out different things by exploring below the surface.”

NASA is taking exploration to the next level, she said.

“Now we’re doing that on a solar system level, mapping asteroids through our solar system,” Rock said. “When collisions happened, what types of matter were passed along the way? How did matter made its way to Earth? We’re discovering new things all the time.”

Her presentation will look at the specific asteroids chosen for study, and why and how the spacecraft’s trajectory is carefully synchronized to take advantage of Earth’s gravity. “Lucy’s” solar system tour will study eight asteroids. It is the most ambitious NASA project in terms of destinations and independent sun orbits.

The most popular of the ScienceFest events, the Saturday Discovery Day, will remain virtual. For more information, see