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Reservists give Lucy a ride in the sky with NASA mission

Charleston C-17 offload of Lucy spacecraft

The shipping container holding NASA's Lucy spacecraft is unloaded from a United States Air Force C-17 cargo plane, stationed out of Charleston Air Force Base in South Carolina, on the runway of the Launch and Landing Facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 30, 2021. From there, the Lucy spacecraft will move to the Astrotech Space Operations payload processing facility in nearby Titusville, Florida, before its scheduled launch on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on October 16, 2021. The Lucy mission will be the first space mission to explore a diverse population of small bodies known as the Jupiter Trojan asteroids. The launch is being managed by NASA's Launch Services Program based at Kennedy, America's multi-user spaceport. (NASA Photo \ Kim Shiflett)

Lucy Offload from C-17

Master Sgt. Logan Cathcart, 317th Airlift Quadron loadmaster, coordinates the offload of a shipping container holding NASA's Lucy spacecraft as it is unloaded from an Air Force C-17 Gloebmaster III, from Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, on the runway of the Launch and Landing Facility at Kennedy Space Center, Fla. July 30, 2021. From there, the Lucy spacecraft will move to the Astrotech Space Operations payload processing facility in nearby Titusville, Florida, before its scheduled launch on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Oct. 16, 2021. The Lucy mission will be the first space mission to explore a diverse population of small bodies known as the Jupiter Trojan asteroids. The launch is being managed by NASA's Launch Services Program based at Kennedy, America's multi-user spaceport. (NASA Photo \ Kim Shiflett)

Lucy Arrival at LLF

An Air Force C-17 Globemaster III from Joint Base Charleston, iSouth Carolina, holding NASA's Lucy spacecraft lands on the runway of the Launch and Landing Facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 30, 2021. From there, the Lucy spacecraft will move to the Astrotech Space Operations payload processing facility in nearby Titusville, Florida, before its scheduled launch on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on October 16, 2021. The Lucy mission will be the first space mission to explore a diverse population of small bodies known as the Jupiter Trojan asteroids. The launch is being managed by NASA's Launch Services Program based at Kennedy, America's multi-user spaceport. (NASA Photo \ Kim Shiflett)

Lucy offload from C-17

The shipping container holding NASA's Lucy spacecraft is unloaded from an Air Force C-17 cargo aircraft on the runway of the Launch and Landing Facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 30, 2021. From there, the Lucy spacecraft will move to the Astrotech Space Operations payload processing facility in nearby Titusville, Florida, before its scheduled launch on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on October 16, 2021. The Lucy mission will be the first space mission to explore a diverse population of small bodies known as the Jupiter Trojan asteroids. The launch is being managed by NASA's Launch Services Program based at Kennedy, America's premier multi-user spaceport. (NASA Photo \ Kim Shiflett)

Lucy spacecraft

This illustration shows the Lucy spacecraft passing one of the Trojan Asteroids near Jupiter. (Credit: Southwest Research Institute)

Lucy Arrival at Astrotech Facility

The shipping container holding NASA's Lucy spacecraft arrives at Astrotech Space Operations payload processing facility in Titusville, Florida on July 30, 2021. The facility, located near NASA's Kennedy Space Center, is where the Lucy spacecraft will undergo processing before its scheduled launch on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on October 16, 2021. The Lucy mission will be the first space mission to explore a diverse population of small bodies known as the Jupiter Trojan asteroids. The launch is being managed by NASA's Launch Services Program based at Kennedy, America's premier multi-user spaceport. (NASA Photo \ Kim Shiflett)

JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. --

What do members of the 317th Airlift Squadron, the rock band, The Beatles, and NASA have in common?  Well, a Reserve aircrew who flew a seemingly routine mission, July 30, from Colorado to Florida can answer the question.

The cargo, aboard a Charleston C-17 Globemaster III, a large white shipping container from Buckley Space Force Base, Colo. directly to Kennedy Space Station, Fla.  The shipping container contained NASA’s latest deep-space exploration spacecraft Lucy.  We’ll get to the connection with The Beatles later.

“Our Reserve crew at Buckley Space Force Base, Colo., transported Lucy in a C-17 Globemaster III nonstop for about 3.5 hours flying time to the NASA Shuttle Landing Facility at Kennedy Space Station,” Maj. Eric Hummer, 317th AS aircraft commander. “The runway is 15001’ x 300’, and it has an exact replica of a particular section of the moon on the approach end of runway 15. Kind of neat to look at it on google maps if you are interested. “

According to NASA, Lucy will be the first space mission to study the Trojans (located beyond Neptune). The mission takes its name from the fossilized human ancestor (called “Lucy” by her discoverers) whose skeleton provided unique insight into humanity's evolution. Likewise, the Lucy mission will revolutionize our knowledge of planetary origins and the formation of the solar system.

NASA says that Lucy’s discoveries will open new insights into the origins of our Earth and ourselves.

Hummer said the airlift mission involved a lot of extremely motivated people.  “It was an incredible opportunity and experience to get to work with some amazing people.

“They were extremely excited and proud to be a part of the Lucy mission and were happy to bend the ear of those willing to listen,” Hummer added. Not only were they excited to be a part of the NASA mission, but they seemed just as excited to see how we operate while they visited the cockpit.  I heard multiple times on various visits to the flight deck that ‘we have a very cool job.’  It was an honor to be a part of an extraordinary deep space exploration mission that will expand our knowledge and understanding of how our solar system was created.” 

Lucy is a Discovery class mission, scheduled to launch this fall, is led by principal investigator Harold "Hal" Levison from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo., who, with a team of scientists and engineers, will address key science questions about the solar system, according to NASA’s website. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., is providing overall mission management, systems engineering, and safety and mission assurance. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft. Instruments were provided by Goddard, the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., and Arizona State University. Discovery missions are overseen by the Planetary Missions Program Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., for NASA’s Planetary Science Division.

OK, now for the connection to the Beatles.

“I’m so excited,” said George Harrison, The Beatles lead guitarist, in a video for Goddard Space Flight Center. “Lucy is going back in the Sky With Diamonds!”

“If you meet anybody up there Lucy, give them peace and love from me,” Harrison said at the end of his video message.

Harrison is quoted on the Lucy placard along with quotes from other world visionaries.

Lucy was named by expedition member Pamela Alderman after a celebratory evening dancing and singing to The Beatles’ song Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds. Just as that Lucy fossil provided unique insights into humanity’s evolution, the Lucy mission promises to revolutionize our knowledge of planetary origins and the formation of the Solar System.