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NASA's Psyche mission has been delayed by at least a year.  The asteroid fighter software needs a bit more testing.

NASA’s Psyche mission has been delayed by at least a year. The asteroid fighter software needs a bit more testing.

NASA has announced that their Psyche mission, a mission to explore a mineral-rich asteroid for the first time, will not go into space this year. The idea was that the Psyche spacecraft would blast off against the metal-rich asteroid 16 Psyche later this year. Now it looks like this will happen instead in 2023 or 2024.

The reason for the delay is said to be due to the fact that the software that will be rolling on the Psyche rover has not been adequately tested yet, something that appears in part to have something to do with the pandemic. NASA JPL Administrator Lori Lichen says:

“Flying to a distant, mineral-rich asteroid, using Mars to help with gravity on the way there, requires incredible precision. We must get it right. Hundreds of people have put a remarkable effort into Psyche during this pandemic, and work will continue to be a complex flight program that has been meticulously tested and evaluated.” And the decision to delay the launch wasn’t easy, but it’s the right one.”

It is estimated that the Psyche spacecraft will take about six years to travel from Earth to the asteroid 16 Psyche. This means that the spacecraft could be as close to asteroid 2029 as it looks now.

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16 Psych16 Psyche is a large M-type asteroid that was discovered by the Italian astronomer Annibale de Gasparis, working in Naples, on March 17, 1852 and named after the Greek mythological character Psyche. The prefix “16” indicates that it was the 16th minor planet in the order of discovery. It is the largest and most massive M-type asteroid, and one of dozens of massive asteroids. It has an average diameter of about 220 kilometers (140 miles) and contains about one percent of the mass of the asteroid belt. Historically, it was assumed to be the exposed core of a protoplanet, but several recent studies have almost ruled it out. Psyche was scheduled to do space exploration, with a spacecraft launch planned for 2022, arrival in early 2026, and orbital exploration in 2026-2027.

SpaceX will send a satellite to an asteroid outside Mars

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Falcon Heavy will take NASA to the metal asteroid 16 Psyche

NASA has announced that a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket will be used to launch the satellite for use in an upcoming NASA mission where they plan to send a satellite to the asteroid 16 Psyche. 16 Psyche is located in orbit around the sun between Mars and Jupiter, which is more than 500 million kilometers from Earth. An asteroid is considered relatively unique in that it is made mostly of metal. In a press release, NASA wrote: “The Psyche mission will go to a unique metal-rich asteroid, also called Psyche, which orbits the sun between Mars and Jupiter. The asteroid is unique, as it appears to be made largely of exposed nickel-iron core to a planet in early – one of the building blocks of our solar system.Deep in the rocky and terrestrial planets, including Earth, scientists infer the presence of metal cores, but these lie elusively under the mantle and rocky crusts of the planet.We can not see or measure directly the Earth’s core, the The Psyche mission provides a unique window into the violent history of the collisions and accretion that led to the creation of terrestrial planets.” NASA plans to launch the Psyche satellite with the SpaceX Falcon Heavy in August 2022. If this schedule is met, the crew is expected to frame the asteroid in January. 2026 The mission is expected to continue until at least October 2027.

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