December 5, 2023

Science – NASA launches a space probe to a mineral-rich asteroid – Knowledge

Cape Canaveral (dpa) – NASA’s space probe “Psyche” launched towards a mineral-rich asteroid of the same name. The probe launched from Cape Canaveral Spaceport in the US state of Florida on Friday aboard a Falcon Heavy rocket belonging to Elon Musk’s private space company SpaceX. The start was previously postponed for a day due to bad weather conditions.

The probe, which is roughly the size of a tennis court and has solar sails, was scheduled to launch in 2022. But that was unsuccessful due to computer problems. Psyche must travel about 3.5 billion kilometers to reach the asteroid, and for this reason the probe will not be able to get there until 2029 at the earliest.

The potato-shaped asteroid Psyche orbits the sun between Mars and Jupiter. Its area is 165,800 square kilometers, nearly half the area of ​​Germany. According to preliminary results, “psycho” contains a lot of metals. The probe will explore its composition, giving scientists a better idea of ​​the composition of asteroids, planets and our solar system.

NASA is currently doing a lot of research on asteroids: with the DART mission, the US space agency had a probe impact on an asteroid last year – and thus changed its orbit. The Osiris-Rex mission sent a probe to the asteroid Bennu, which dropped a sample of its debris on Earth a few weeks ago. According to preliminary studies, this contains traces of water and carbon. The probe is now on its way to the next asteroid – Apophis.

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