NASA’s Psyche mission to launch in 2023

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NASA’s Psyche mission is scheduled to launch on October 13, 2023. This is after a year-long delay from a planned launch window in August 2022. The project was announced in 2017 and led by an ASU team of professors to explore the metal-rich Psyche asteroid.

The mission will now trace a new flight plan around Mars. The planet’s gravitational assist is required to propel the spacecraft to the target asteroid. This trajectory has shifted the spacecraft’s arrival to August 2029, a nearly six-year duration in flight against the previously considered four-year plan with an initial arrival of August 2026.

The mission will then enter its 26-month-long science phase, collecting and observing data from the asteroid.

Carver Bierson, planetary scientist for Psyche at Arizona State University, joined Arizona Horizon to discuss the details.

“Psyche is in between Mars and Jupiter. It’s about three times further away from the Sun than the Earth is,” Bierson said. “It’s about 100 kilometers in radius, so a little bit smaller than the size of Arizona.”

Bierson explained the spacecraft for the mission is about 20 meters long. Most of it consists of huge solar panels that are essential for collecting enough sunlight for the mission.

Nickel covers most of the asteroid’s surface. But how do we know that from so far away on Earth?

“What we can see from the Earth is that we can actually bounce radio waves off the asteroid and look at how they reflect,” Bierson said. “From that, we can tell that there’s metal on the surface, but critically we don’t know how much metal is there. We don’t know if it’s entirely metals, like iron and nickel, or if it’s only 20% metals. That’s why we have to go there to find out.”

Click here to watch the launch on October 13, 2023, at approximately 7:24 a.m. MST.

Carver Bierson, Planetary scientist for Psyche, ASU

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