Witness The Live Launch of NASA’s $1 Billion Psyche Mission to a Metallic World by SpaceX

NASA’s upcoming mission is set to embark on an extraordinary 2.2 billion-mile journey through the cosmos to reach a unique, metal-rich asteroid located beyond the orbit of Mars.

The Psyche mission, scheduled for launch on Thursday at 10:16 a.m. ET (weather permitting), is riding aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. The launch will be available for live viewing on NASA’s YouTube Channel, the space agency’s website, and app, with live coverage commencing at 9:15 a.m. ET.

This mission holds a special distinction as it marks the first-ever exploration of a planetary body that, based on observations, appears to be primarily composed of metal. The target of the mission is the asteroid known as Psyche, measuring about 140 miles wide, situated within the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Scientists theorize that Psyche might be the exposed core of a shattered planetesimal, one of the celestial building blocks that contribute to the formation of planets.

Carol Polanskey, NASA’s project scientist for Psyche, noted, “Psyche in particular is interesting because it looks like it could very well be an early growing planet…that had already gotten to the point where it had melted and allowed metallic material to go to the core and have a rocky surface similar to other bodies in the solar system.”

The Psyche spacecraft, equipped with advanced instruments such as a multispectral imager, a gamma-ray and neutron spectrometer, a magnetometer, and a radio instrument, will orbit the asteroid. These instruments will provide valuable data regarding the asteroid’s size, shape, and composition. This mission will help scientists gain insights into the asteroid’s history and its significance in understanding the formation of planets.

The spacecraft’s journey will span approximately 2.2 billion miles before it reaches the main asteroid belt. If all goes according to plan, it will enter asteroid Psyche’s orbit in late July 2029, commencing its mission in August of the same year.

An unexpected issue with the Psyche spacecraft’s thrusters, discovered a week before its original launch date, caused a brief delay. The issue, related to the thrusters potentially overheating during the eight-year mission, was resolved, leading to the adjusted launch date.

The Psyche mission offers launch opportunities daily until October 25, providing an exciting opportunity for astronomers and space enthusiasts to witness this pioneering exploration of a metal-rich world beyond our planet.

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Disclaimer: The views, suggestions, and opinions expressed here are the sole responsibility of the experts. No Nook Explorer journalist was involved in the writing and production of this article.