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NASA’s Psyche Mission Will Launch A Year Early, Arrive At Target Four Years Sooner

Psyche robotic craft
(Image courtesy of Space Systems Loral/ASU/Peter Rubin)
The robotic craft will orbit and study Psyche for 20 months.

NASA’s mission to 16 Psyche, the solar system’s only known iron-nickel asteroid, will launch in the summer of 2022, one year earlier than originally planned.

Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration leads the mission. Jim Green, director of NASA's Planetary Science division, asked mission planners to explore the possibility of a faster flight path, according to ASU.

Because the Earth, sun and other solar system objects will occupy different relative positions during the new flight period, Psyche will arrive at its target — which lies in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter — four years earlier. The robotic craft will orbit and study Psyche for 20 months.

The plan also will save money, reduce the need for heat shielding and provide better lighting conditions when the craft arrives.

Researchers hope that the ball of rock, which they believe to be the core of a failed planet, will provide valuable clues to the mechanisms of planetary formation.

Nicholas Gerbis was a senior field correspondent for KJZZ from 2016 to 2024.