NASA’s deep-space probe to an estimated US$10-quadrillion metal-rich asteroid is on its way. The Psyche mission lifted off on October 13 at 10:19 am EDT from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida atop a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket.
Today’s launch came after a 24-hour hold due to bad weather at Cape Canaveral. The spacecraft lifted off during its one-second launch window without major mishap and achieved second-stage separation around the 5-minute mark.
One hour after launch, the robotic spacecraft separated from the booster and at 11:50 am EDT Mission Control established two-way communications through NASA’s Deep Space Network complex in Canberra, Australia.
The probe is now on its way to its namesake, the asteroid Psyche, which is of great interest because of its high metallic content. Aside from its scientific value, the possibility of mining such asteroids could revolutionize the economy of Earth.
However, all that must wait until August 2029 when Psyche goes into orbit around the 173-mile (279-km)-wide asteroid.
“We said ‘goodbye’ to our spacecraft, the center of so many work lives for so many years – thousands of people and a decade,” said Lindy Elkins-Tanton, Psyche principal investigator at Arizona State University in Tempe. “But it’s really not a finish line; it’s a starting line for the next marathon. Our spacecraft is off to meet our asteroid, and we’ll fill another gap in our knowledge – and color in another kind of world in our solar system.”
The video below recaps the launch of the Psyche mission.