NASA turns asteroid hunter again! Here is what Psyche spacecraft is looking for

NASA's Psyche spacecraft has embarked on a pioneering mission to investigate an asteroid, also named Psyche, rich in metals, which could provide invaluable insights into the formation of planets.

| Updated on: Oct 24 2023, 20:48 IST
Mangalyaan-2 Mission: ISRO to deploy 4 powerful payloads
1/4 India is gearing up for another significant milestone in space exploration with the upcoming Mars Orbiter Mission-2, also known as Mangalyaan-2.  It will be equipped with a diverse array of scientific payloads, each in various stages of development. These payloads include the Mars Orbit Dust Experiment (MODEX), the Radio Occultation (RO) experiment, the Energetic Ion Spectrometer (EIS), Langmuir Probe and the Electric Field Experiment (LPEX). (ISRO)
2/4 The MODEX payload will play a pivotal role in this, helping to confirm the existence of hypothesized Martian rings and unravel the source of dust, potentially originating from Mars' enigmatic moons, Phobos and Deimos. The RO experiment, on the other hand, will focus on measuring neutral and electron density profiles, employing a microwave transmitter to gain deeper insights into the Martian atmosphere. (Pixabay)
3/4 Another critical aspect of the mission is the EIS, which will be tasked with characterizing solar energy particles and supra-thermal solar wind particles. The LPEX payload, with its capacity to measure electron number density, electron temperature, and electric field waves, will provide invaluable data to enhance our knowledge of Mars' plasma environment. (Pixabay)
4/4 India's first Mars orbiter mission, known as Mangalyaan-1, was launched on November 5, 2013. Now, with Mangalyaan-2, India is aiming to reach even greater heights to unravel the mysteries of Mars. (Pixabay)
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NASA's Psyche spacecraft, launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket, has begun its historic journey to explore Asteroid Psyche, a metal-rich celestial body that may hold secrets about planet formation. (representative image) (pixabay)

NASA's Psyche spacecraft has been successfully launched, embarking on a groundbreaking mission to explore an asteroid of the same name, which is a metal-rich world that holds the potential to shed light on the formation of rocky planets.

Integrated onto the Psyche spacecraft is NASA's Deep Space Optical Communications technology demonstration, aimed at testing deep space laser communications for future exploration missions, providing increased data transmission bandwidth compared to traditional radio frequency communications.

NASA Psyche mission

Shortly after launch, the spacecraft separated from the rocket, and it entered a planned safe mode, during which it performed minimal engineering activities while awaiting further commands from mission controllers on Earth.

Psyche established two-way communication at 11:50 a.m. EDT with NASA's Deep Space Network complex in Canberra, Australia, and initial telemetry reports indicated that the spacecraft is in good health.

The Psyche spacecraft is set to reach the 173-mile-wide metal-class asteroid by August 2029. This asteroid is unique due to its high iron-nickel metal content, which could signify it being a partial core of a planetesimal, a building block of an early planet.

The mission's goal is a 26-month science investigation, where it will orbit the asteroid and unlock valuable insights about planet formation.

The spacecraft relies on solar electric propulsion for its six-year journey to the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, using Mars' gravity as a slingshot to accelerate its journey.

During the first 100 days of the mission, a commissioning phase will ensure all flight systems are functioning correctly, including electric thrusters and scientific instruments.

The spacecraft was launched at 10:19 a.m. EDT from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket.

Psyche is the 14th mission chosen under NASA's Discovery Program and is a collaborative effort led by Arizona State University, managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, with support from SpaceX and various technology demonstration projects.

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First Published Date: 24 Oct, 20:48 IST