Miami (USA), Sep 6 (EFE).- NASA’s Psyche mission will launch on October 5 from Cape Canaveral, Florida (USA), on its way to the largest metallic asteroid in the solar system, in what space agency scientists on Wednesday called a historic journey.
It is “a mission of firsts, the first journey ever to a metallic asteroid that could reveal clues about planetary cores and how planets form and evolve in the early stages of our solar system,” Laurie Leshin, director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), said today in a teleconference.
According to her remarks, it is also the “first-ever deep space optical high bandwidth communications which have a potential to revolutionize future science,” Leshin added.
Psyche’s 3.6 billion-kilometer journey to the asteroid of the same name will take six years after its launch on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket, and it will orbit this body in deep space from 2026 to 2031.
This mission will also be the first to use Hall effect thrusters for deep space and NASA’s first unique Falcon Heavy launch on an interplanetary mission.
For Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division, based in Washington, studying this body will allow us “to learn about the origin and evolution of our solar system.”
The Psyche mission is part of NASA’s Discovery, a program that, to date, has supported 16 planetary science missions.
According to Lindy Elkins-Tanton, Psyche’s lead scientist at Arizona State University, one of the most exciting aspects of the mission is that this is the first time we will see a celestial body with a “mostly metallic surface.”
“We’ve visited bodies made of rock like Mercury, Venus, Mars, and our Moon, and bodies made of ice and gas like Jupiter,” but what we’ve “never seen before” is a metallic asteroid. “And that’s what we think Psyche is,” he added.
The Psyche platform will never return home, but it will provide valuable information about the asteroid’s magnetic field and surface composition while in orbit, which it will do for 26 months. EFE