In news– NASA has cancelled its planned 2022 launch attempt of the Psyche asteroid mission that was designed to study a metal-rich asteroid.
What is the Psyche mission?
- Psyche is the name of an asteroid orbiting the Sun between Mars and Jupiter and the name of a NASA space mission to visit that asteroid.
- Key objectives of the mission are-
- To understand how planets and other bodies are separated into layers such as cores, mantles, and crusts.
- To examine an asteroid made of metal.
- To explore early eras of the solar system.
- Psyche was selected in 2017 as part of NASA’s Discovery Program, which is a line of low-cost competition missions led by a single principal investigator.
- Psyche is the first asteroid known to the world likely made largely of metal rather than rock or ice.
- It appears to be the exposed nickel-iron core of an early planet, one of the building blocks of our solar system.
- The asteroid Psyche may be able to tell us how Earth’s core and the cores of the other terrestrial (rocky) planets came to be.
NASA’s Discovery program-
- The Discovery Program is a series of Solar System exploration missions funded by the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration through its Planetary Missions Program Office.
- The Program was founded in 1990 to implement the policy of the then-NASA administrator Daniel S. Goldin of “faster, better, cheaper” planetary science missions.
- Discovery missions are solicited through a call for proposals on any science topic and assessed through peer review.
- The Program also includes Missions of Opportunity, which fund US participation in spacecraft operated by other space agencies, for example by contributing a single scientific instrument.
- It can also be used to re-purpose an existing NASA spacecraft for a new mission.
- As of June 2021, the most recently selected Discovery missions were VERITAS and DAVINCI+, the fifteenth and sixteenth missions in the program.