NASA mission to asteroid Psyche postponed to fall 2023

An illustration of NASA's Psyche spacecraft, which will now launch in 2026 to visit an asteroid of the same name (Nasa)

An illustration of NASA’s Psyche spacecraft, which will now launch in 2026 to visit an asteroid of the same name (Nasa)

NASA’s delayed Psyche mission to a strange metallic asteroid has been postponed to launch in October 2023, the space agency announced on Friday.

The Psyche spacecraft was originally scheduled to launch in September, but Nasa suspended the mission in June after officials realized specialized navigation software developed by Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory would not be ready in time for a window. 2022 launch schedule. NASA announced the new launch schedule on Friday after an investigation by an independent review panel into the causes of the delay.

“I appreciate the hard work of the Independent Review Board and the JPL-led team for the success of the mission,” Associate Administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Thomas Zurbuchen, said in a statement. a statement. ‚ÄúLessons learned from Psyche will be implemented across our portfolio of engagements. I am excited about the scientific insights Psyche will provide in her lifetime and her promise to contribute to our understanding of our own planet’s core.

The small, car-sized Psyche spacecraft will target the asteroid of the same name, which orbits the Sun in the main asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Scientists believe the highly metallic asteroid could be the bare core of a protoplanetary body, a planet that never fully formed, and could therefore give researchers insight into the internal structure of rocky planets typically hidden by rocky planets. miles of rock.

The Psyche spacecraft was originally intended to reach its namesake asteroid in 2026, after traveling more than a billion miles. The new launch schedule will push that date back to August 2029, after a gravity-assist maneuver around Mars to accelerate into 2026.

Psyche will be the last in a series of NASA asteroid missions. The Osiris-Rex spacecraft is on its way back to Earth with samples from the near-Earth asteroid Bennu collected in 2020, while the Lucy mission to Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids has been rocked by Earth for the first time. of the three gravity assist maneuvers of its 12-year mission. October 16.

And on September 26, NASA’s Dart, or Double Asteroid Redirection Test, hurled a spacecraft at the small asteroid Dimorophos to change its orbitproving in principle that such a mission could alter the orbit of an Earth-threatening asteroid.

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