Science

NASA prepared to begin assembling its asteroid-bound Psyche spacecraft

NASA’s Psyche mission, an uncrewed expedition to a strange asteroid of a similar name, is entering the last stages of planning.

After years of testing and improvement for the scientific instruments that will analyze the metallic asteroid, NASA is prepared to send individual components to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). There, designers will start to integrate and gather the full spacecraft, as indicated by a JPL press release.

“It’s really the final phase, when all of the puzzle pieces are coming together and we’re getting on the rocket. This is the most intense part of everything that happens on the ground,” Psyche principal investigator Lindy Elkins-Tanton said in the release.

On the off chance that all keeps on working out positively, the spacecraft will be prepared well in advance of its planned launch in August 2022. NASA expects that final testing and assembly will last until spring 2022, when it will eventually be sent down to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

“The project has made tremendous progress, particularly given the world around us and COVID-19 and dealing with the constraints that imposes,” Psyche project manager Henry Stone said in the press release. “We’re in very good shape. We’re on track and have a plan to go forward to make launch.”

During its 21-month orbit around Psyche, NASA’s rocket will take pictures of the asteroid while additionally studying its surface and — in the event that it discovers one — its magnetic field.

The asteroid appears to have a lot higher metal content than a typical space rock, inciting researchers to speculate that it’s actually the uncovered core of a planet that split up. Contingent upon what the mission discovers, NASA’s spacecraft may uncover new data about how our planet formed too.

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