NASA’s Psyche mission, which aims to study a large metallic asteroid, is finally set to launch in October after facing numerous delays. The mission, scheduled to launch on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket, is currently on track and all preparations are going smoothly.
The spacecraft is fully fueled and ready to be integrated with the launch vehicle. A static-fire test has been planned one week prior to the launch. However, there is a potential challenge looming over the mission – the need for a stopgap spending bill from Congress to fund the government after the end of September.
Failure to pass the bill could result in a partial government shutdown that would directly impact several ongoing NASA missions, including Psyche. To ensure that the mission proceeds as planned, Lori Glaze, NASA’s planetary science division director, expressed her intention to seek an exception from Congress.
NASA has previously requested waivers to prevent delays in essential mission and launch personnel. They are fully prepared to do the same for the Psyche mission if necessary. The initial launch window for Psyche was missed due to delays in testing the spacecraft’s guidance, navigation, and control software.
These delays prompted a thorough review of institutional issues at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which subsequently led to increased mission costs. The new cost estimate for the Psyche mission has risen to approximately $1.2 billion, exceeding the initial estimate of $996.4 million.
Furthermore, the delay in launch will inevitably push back Psyche’s arrival at the asteroid to 2029. Once it reaches the metallic asteroid, the spacecraft will spend over two years conducting detailed studies using a variety of instruments.
Scientists hope that by studying Psyche, they will gain valuable insights into the cores of terrestrial planets and the formation of the solar system. Notably, the mission has attracted attention due to the extraordinary valuation of the asteroid at $10,000 quadrillion. However, the principal investigator of Psyche disputes this valuation, stating that bringing the asteroid back to Earth would flood the markets and render the metals effectively worthless.
Despite the setbacks and challenges, NASA remains determined to launch the Psyche mission, eager to unravel the mysteries of this metallic asteroid and advance scientific understanding of our solar system’s origins.