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NASA's Psyche Mission To Metal Asteroid Launches Thursday!

NASA is preparing to launch the Psyche spacecraft on October 12th, traveling 2.2 billion miles to visit the asteroid that is its namesake discovered in 1852 by Italian astronomer Annibale de Gasparis.

The asteroid, which lies in the outer portion of the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, may be part of a core of a planetesimal (a building block of a planet) and can tell us more about planetary cores and Earth’s own formation.

If all goes as planned, asteroid Psyche’s gravity will capture the spacecraft in late July 2029, and Psyche will begin its prime mission in August. It will spend about two years orbiting the asteroid to take pictures, map the surface, and collect data to determine Psyche’s composition.

The body of the Psyche spacecraft is about the size of a small van, and it’s powered by solar electric propulsion. It has a magnetometer, a gamma-ray and neutron spectrometer, and a multispectral imager to study asteroid Psyche. The spacecraft will start sending images to Earth as soon as it spots the asteroid.

(Read more about the Psyche spacecraft and mission.)

The Psyche mission is to examine the metal-rich asteroid by orbiting it and taking pictures. Eventually, we may want to take some of its for ourselves, as described in The Mechanical Monarch, a 1958 novel by E.C. Tubb.

Eventually, we might have manned missions to explore such asteroids, as described in The Death's Head Meteor by Neil R. Jones:

...The young astronaut entered the space flyer, closed the door, and was alone in the air-tight compartment just large enough to accommodate him. On the instrument board before him were dials, levers, gauges, buttons and queer apparatus which controlled and operated the various features of the craft. He turned on his oxygen supply and his air rejuvenator so that the air could be used more than once, after which he shoved his starting lever forward. The craft raced suddenly off the roof and into the cloudless sky above the vast city of the twenty-sixth century.


('Deaths' Head Meteor' by Neil R. Jones)

...it was but a short time before the tiny space flyer found itself in the vacuum of outer space. The little craft had six windows of a thick glass-like substance which was colored a deep transparent brown to nullify the blinding glare of the sun. The windows pointed in six different directions, and it was from these that Jan noticed the daylight ebbing, to be replaced by the utter blackness of night, except where the blazing ball of the sun shone through the brown glass windows.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 10/7/2023)

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