On the hunt for the asteroid Psyche

It is NASA’s new objective: to hunt for the asteroid Psyche. The mission successfully took off on October 13 from Cape Canaveral. The launch had been postponed 24 hours due to bad weather conditions in that area of ​​Florida. Two and a half minutes after takeoff, the rocket’s side engines detached. After 4 minutes the first stage separated from the central rocket. Shortly after it reached orbit.

NASA's new objective is to hunt for the asteroid Psyche.
NASA’s new objective is to hunt for the asteroid Psyche.

ancient planet

It escaped Earth’s gravity with the second stage, until spacecraft separation. The side engines successfully landed in a controlled manner 8 minutes after takeoff. Psyche’s target is an intriguing metal-rich asteroid with the same name. It orbits the Sun in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Scientists think that, unlike rocky or icy asteroids, Psyche is composed primarily of iron and nickel. It could be the heart of a primitive planet that lost its outer layers.

This asteroid is about 280 kilometers at its widest point. Reaching it would provide valuable information about how Earth and other planets formed. They will use a magnetometer to detect a potential magnetic field. If the asteroid has one, it is a strong indicator that it was once the core of a primitive planet.

A multispectral imager will capture images of the surface. It will also collect information about the asteroid’s composition and topography. The spectrometers will analyze neutrons and gamma rays coming from the surface. They hope to reveal the elements that make up the object.

This asteroid is believed to have been an early planet.
This asteroid is believed to have been an early planet.

long journey

The trip that will hunt for the asteroid Psyche will cross 3.6 million kilometers over a period of almost 6 years. It will include flying relatively close to Mars in May 2026. It will have what is called a gravity assist. Taking advantage of Mars’ gravity, Psyche will increase its speed and change direction without using much propellant.

If all goes as planned, the gravity of the asteroid Psyche will capture the spacecraft in late July 2029. Psyche will begin its primary mission in August. It will spend about two years orbiting the asteroid to take photographs, map the surface and collect data.

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