This Thursday the 12th US Space Agency NASA is preparing to launch a spacecraft to study a mineral-rich asteroid called 16 Psyche. The space agency says: “The Psyche probe will travel about 3.5 billion kilometers to study this asteroid that bears the same name as the mission.”
Liftoff is scheduled to take place at 11:16 a.m. Brasilia time, aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket from Launch Complex 39A at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, United States. See here how to follow the live broadcast.
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“The asteroid, located in the outer part of the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, may be part of a planetary core (a building block of a planet),” NASA says. According to the agency, the rocky orb could provide more information about the hearts of planets and the composition of the Earth itself.
“The outcomes may be completely beyond our control,” said Lindy Elkins-Tanton, the mission’s principal investigator.
NASA scientists estimate that the asteroid’s interior could be metallic, just like the center of Earth and other rocky planets in the solar system.
In turn, PSEC’s chief operations engineer, David Oh, from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, stated that the spacecraft will travel a distance of 3.5 billion kilometers over approximately 6 years, reaching the satellite scheduled for August 2029.
“Once the Psyche spacecraft is attracted by the asteroid’s gravity, it will orbit the object for about 26 celestial months to take images, track its surface and collect data to determine the composition of Psyche, which is about 280 kilometers across,” says Oh.
“The spacecraft will also host NASA’s Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) technology demonstration, which will be the first test of laser communications beyond the Moon.
The complete platform on which the spacecraft will travel, which is 24.8 meters long and equipped with solar panels, will reach Mars in May 2026 to use its gravitational pull and continue its journey towards the asteroid. (with international agencies)
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