NASA’s Psyche Mission Just Got Some Bad News

Psyche is a metal-rich asteroid that is roughly 173 miles across at its widest point and is said to harbor an unusually high metal content, leading scientists to believe that it can help unlock the mysteries of a solar system’s formation in the early stages. The namesake spacecraft would embark on a journey that will have it sailing through space for nearly 3.5 years, and once it locks into an orbit around the asteroid, it will spend another couple of years studying it.

The spacecraft is about the size of a car, with solar-powered sails that measure 25 meters by 7.3 meters. Xenon gas serves as the fuel source, and it uses electricity generated by the hyper-efficient solar cells to convert the fuel into xenon ions that eject with a bluish glow to provide thrust. However, the spacecraft won’t rely solely on fuel-based propulsion. Instead, it will slingshot around Mars and use the planet’s gravitational field that to push towards its destination.

Instruments aboard the spacecraft include a multispectral spectrometer to assess metals and silicates on the asteroid’s surface, while a pair of cameras will capture imagery of its terrain. A magnetometer is also on board alongside a gamma ray spectrometer and a neutron spectrometer. The last deadline for mission take-off was October 11, but following the delay, the launch likely won’t happen this year. 

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