NASA’s Psyche mission is again. It’ll launch towards its metal-asteroid goal later this yr
NASA’s Psyche mission is back on track for launch and is now scheduled for a possible launch date in October 2023, according to a NASA statement in October 2022. This comes after missing the originally planned launch date between August and October 2022 and Became the subject of an independent audit committee, the results of which were announced in November 2022.
“I appreciate the hard work of the independent review board and the JPL-led team in making the mission a success,” said Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, deputy administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, in the October 2022 statement. “The lessons from Psyche will be implemented across our mission portfolio. I look forward to the scientific insights Psyche will provide during his lifetime and his promise to contribute to our understanding of the core of our own planet.”
The launch delay came after the spacecraft’s flight software and test equipment were not delivered to NASA on time, meaning there was not enough time to complete testing to meet the mission’s 2022 launch date. With this new launch date, Psyche is scheduled to reach Mars gravity assist sometime in 2026 and reach asteroid 16 Psyche in August 2029.
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“The entire team and I are thrilled that the new launch has been confirmed,” said Dr. Lindy Elkins-Tanton, lead investigator for the Psyche mission, recently emailed Universe Today. “Moving the date was critical to the success of the mission and the review process has really helped us to reschedule in a productive way. And it feels great to be working full steam ahead towards the new appointment.”
The goal of the Psyche mission is to explore the asteroid 16 Psyche, which lies in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. What makes 16 Psyche so intriguing for scientific study is that it is a metal-rich object and the possible partial core of a shattered planetesimal, depicting the early stages of a planet in the process of formation. But how does this new start date for the Psyche mission affect the overall mission, especially in relation to the science aspect?
“The scientific goals and requirements are unchanged,” said Dr. Elkins-Tanton Universe Today via email. “Indeed, being at a slightly different phase of the asteroid’s orbit around the Sun than the previous launch date improves some of the technical aspects of orbiting the asteroid and obtaining data, and the scientific results are expected to be as good or better.” than originally planned.”
Once the spacecraft successfully arrives at 16 Psyche in 2029, it will conduct its scientific operations from four staging orbits, which are orbits conducted at continuously decreasing altitudes above the asteroid’s surface. Each of the four phases will serve to collect data for characterization (56 days), topography (80 days), gravitational science (100 days) and elemental mapping (100 days) of the asteroid.
“We are all excited to share this adventure with the world,” said Dr. Elkins-Tanton Universe Today via email. “Don’t miss our student art (our art interns create dozens of new pieces of art each year) and our free online classes available through the ASU mission website.”
As always, keep doing science and keep looking up!