julho 17, 2024

NASA has announced that its Psyche mission is on schedule and its specially designed spacecraft will finally begin its voyage to asteroid 16 Psyche later this year. The space agency’s first mission to study a metallic asteroid was originally planned for a lift-off atop a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket in September 2022; however, it had to be delayed due to “development problems.” According to Space.com, NASA postponed the liftoff because of issues identified with the spacecraft’s flight software.

NASA’s Psyche spacecraft

While the problem was addressed, there wasn’t enough time for a full checkout and launch in 2022. An independent review board was formed by NASA and Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California, which manages the Psyche mission, to get the project back on track. The board issued a statement on Monday stating all the recommendations have been addressed and the team has made outstanding progress on the project. “The independent review board is extraordinarily impressed by the accomplishments of the total JPL organization and Caltech,” the report reads.

16 Psyche – an asteroid estimated to be worth 70,000 times the global economy
16 Psyche is a rare asteroid that is of the size of Massachusetts and is located between Mars and Jupiter. Named after the Greek goddess of the soul, the asteroid was discovered back in 1852 by Italian astronomer Annibale de Gasparis. Scientists believe that 16 Psyche is the partial core of a small planet that failed to fully form during the earliest days of our solar system. Furthermore, the giant M-shaped asteroid appears to be made almost entirely of iron and nickel. If that turns out to be true, it could be worth as much as $10,000 quadrillion, which is 70,000 times the current global economy. That’s enough money to make every American family wealthier than Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

However, there are other researchers who believe that the asteroid isn’t as metal-dense as previously perceived. It’s important to note that the upcoming NASA mission won’t attempt into harnessing the asteroid’s mineral wealth. Instead, it will closely study 16 Psyche and gain insights into planetary formation by orbiting the asteroid for 26 months. If the spacecraft would have been launched last year, it would have reached its target asteroid in early 2026. Thanks to the delays, the Psyche craft will only reach the asteroid only by August 2029 because of the significantly different path it will now have to take. Psyche is currently undergoing final testing and should be ready for lift-off in the month of October.

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