Psyche Probe – Journey To Orbit A Metal World
Visit An Iron-Nickel Asteroid!
The NASA Psyche mission, which is run by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in conjunction with Arizona State University, is a voyage to study a one of a kind metal asteroid orbiting in the main Asteroid belt called ’16 Psyche’. It is believed that 16 Psyche is the exposed iron-nickel core of an ancient planetesimal which was exposed after a giant collision stripped its rocky outer layer off.
Psyche Mission Fast Summary Facts!
- Type: Orbiter
- Destination: Asteroid 16 Psyche (Iron-Nickel asteroid)
- Status: Under Development
- Launch Location: Kennedy Space Center, Florida
- Launch Date: 2022
- Arrival Date: 2026
- Mission Duration: 21 months
Fun Facts About NASA’s Psyche Asteroid Probe!
- In early 2017, NASA selected the Psyche mission (along with the Lucy mission), as the next missions as part of their Discovery program.
- This will be the first time a space mission has explored a world not made of rock and ice, but predominately metal!
- Analysis from Earth suggests that 16 Psyche has a diameter of about 252 km (157 miles) and is an M-type asteroid that is composed of iron-nickel metal similar to the iron meteorites found on Earth.
- The Psyche mission is important because if the asteroid turns out to be an iron-nickel core that was exposed after a giant collision, then it will give scientist an opportunity to study a planet’s cores which are currently beyond our reach due to their location deep within differentiated moons and planets.
- The major science objectives are to determine 16 Psyche’s formation history (former planetesimal core or unmelted accretion asteroid), surface geology, shape, composition, magnetic field and mass distribution through gravity analysis.
- The spacecraft will utilize the advanced solar-electric propulsion (ion propulsion) during its cruise which is 10 times more efficient than traditional rocket fuel.
- The cruise phase will last 3.5 years and will include a gravity assist flyby of Mars in 2023.
- The Psyche probe will also trial a new advanced communications system using lasers (light) to communicate with Earth in addition to traditional radio waves. The deep space laser communication technology has the ability to increase the data transfer rates by a factor of 10 to 100!
I can’t wait for the Psyche probe to arrive and start beaming back cool images of this unique world!