Miami (EFE).- NASA’s Psyche mission will take off on October 5 from Cape Canaveral, Florida (USA), heading to this gigantic metallic asteroid, the largest in the solar system, on a trip that scientists of this space agency described it as historic for being the first to be carried out on a body of this type.
It is “the first mission to a metallic asteroid that could reveal clues about planetary nuclei and how planets form and evolve in the early stages of our solar system,” Laurie Leshin, director of the Laboratory for Jet Propulsion (JPL, in English) from NASA.
It will also be the first time that a demonstration of optical communications has been carried out in deep space, research that, Leshin highlighted, has the “potential to revolutionize future scientific and human spaceflight missions.”
Psyche’s 3.6 billion kilometer journey to the asteroid of the same name, after its launch alongside a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket, will last six years and, from 2026 to 2031, it will orbit above this body in deep space.
the psyche mission
This mission is also the first time Hall effect thrusters have been used in deep space and NASA’s first exclusive launch of a Falcon Heavy on an interplanetary mission, he noted.
For Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Sciences Division, based in Washington, the study of this body will allow us to “learn about the origin and evolution of our solar system” as “remnants that are from the first blocks that formed all the planets and moons.
The Psyche mission is part of NASA’s Discovery, a program that, to date, has supported 16 planetary science missions.
Glaze expressed on behalf of the 2,000 specialists involved in the development of this mission the great excitement that the possibility of “visiting and seeing for the first time an asteroid rich in metals” arouses in everyone.
“I really want to see those first images, which will be spectacular,” he said.
One of the most exciting aspects of the mission, according to Lindy Elkins-Tanton, Psyche Principal Scientist at Arizona State University, is that this is the first time we’re going to see a celestial body with a “mostly metallic surface.” .
“We have visited bodies made of rock like Mercury, Venus, Mars and our Moon, and bodies made of ice and gas like Jupiter,” but what “we have never seen” is a metallic asteroid. “And that’s what we think Psyche is,” she said.
And this is what makes exploring Psyche so “exciting and important,” since “we don’t know what we’re going to see,” Elkins-Tanton said.
During the exhibition, experts showed images of the Psyche platform, 81 feet long (24.8 meters) with its solar panels deployed, which in 2026 will fly over Mars to use its gravitational impulse and continue its journey towards the asteroid, “the largest metallic object in our solar system.
The Psyche platform will never return home, he clarified in the teleconference, but it will provide invaluable information about the asteroid’s magnetic field and its surface composition while in orbit, which it will do for 26 months.