In the next few years, astronomers might finally be able to resolve the mysteries surrounding the asteroid ‘Psyche’ which is believed to be composed of iron and nickel. NASA is reportedly planning to visit the asteroid in the coming years.
The space agency has already given the green signal to the mission and now it has entered the designing and fabrication phase. This also means that the team working on Psyche will soon be developing detailed plans for the spacecraft and its operations.
Psyche has been a topic of debate for quite some time, as it is different from other space rocks in the asteroid belt. Most of them are rocky or icy. That’s the reason astronomers believe that it might be the nickel-iron core of an early planet which was nearly the size of Mars. The planet might have lost its outer layer after a collision billions of years ago.
The main aim of the mission is to measure the magnetic field of the asteroid and capture high-resolution images that will allow scientists to differentiate between its metallic and silicate components.
It will also put NASA JPL’s new laser communications technology known as the Deep Space Optical Communications, which can transmit data and images “at least 10 times faster than conventional systems.”
By exploring the asteroid, NASA scientists are hoping to understand the early days of the solar system. The data gathered on the mission will help them understand planet formation and how Earth came into existence. NASA could launch its Psyche mission by August 2022, fly by the Red Planet in 2023, and finally reach its destination on January 31st. 2026.
Besides, NASA is also working on an asteroid defense system. The space agency is working with SpaceX on its first-ever attempt to deflect an asteroid. The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) will take flight placed on a Falcon 9 rocket in June 2021 from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
The DART will crash into Didymos asteroid’s small moon and deflect it off its trajectory. But, what’s important to note is that if the mission fails, it would also derail NASA’s “kinetic impactor technique.”
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