Earlier this week, NASA announced its decision to move up the launching date of one of its upcoming space travels, the Psyche mission. Part of the Discovery program, this spacecraft has an interesting and unusual target, a unique metal asteroid.
Now, instead of an October 2023 deployment, the Psyche mission is scheduled to launch in the summer of 2022. This earlier date will also significantly impact its arrival time at its special target. It could move it up by almost four years.
The Psyche Mission Team Has Been Studying the Optimal Launch Date
Psyche, just as its cousin Lucy, is part of the NASA Discovery program. The program’s announcement of opportunity proposed the launching of two missions, one in 2021 and the other in 2023. As the Lucy mission’s optimal launch is reportedly better fit for 2021, the Psyche mission was initially set for 2023.
But according to reports, not long after this selection, NASA asked the mission’s team to study and look for an earlier deployment date for Psyche as well. Now, scientists established that a 2022 launch could be far more useful, as it means a significant reduction in the voyage’s duration.
“The biggest advantage is the excellent trajectory, which gets us there about twice as fast and is more cost effective,” states Lindy Elkins-Tanton.
Part of the Arizona State University in Tempe, she is also the Psyche mission’s Principal Investigator. Elkins-Tanton also expressed her and her team’s excitement at NASA’ s being able to “accommodate this earlier launch date’.
An earlier start also means a revised trajectory. The mission’s new path will increase its distance from the Sun, which means a reduced amount of needed heat protection. Also, the Psyche mission will no longer require assistance for Earth’s gravity, which also shortens its duration.
The Psyche mission will now set off in the summer of 2022 to study an asteroid made almost completely out of nickel-iron metal. This is currently orbiting in between Mars and Jupiter. Its study is believed to help acquire a better understanding of the Universe’s early days, as some believe that the Psyche asteroid could actually be an early planet’s exposed core.
Image Source: JPL/NASA