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NASA shares first images from iconic asteroid spacecraft

Published Dec 7th, 2023 5:02PM EST
illustration of Psyche spacecraft over its target
Image: NASA

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NASA’s Psyche mission is already 16 million miles away from Earth, barreling toward its targeted asteroid, where it will conduct a full study of the cosmic body that shares its name. Now, NASA has shared the first Psyche images, which were recently beamed back to Earth, giving us a glimpse of what Psyche is already able to see.

Psyche originally launched back in October, and has spent the past month and some weeks traveling through space on its multi-year journey to reach the asteroid Psyche, a main belt asteroid found between Mars and Jupiter. It’s expected to reach its destination sometime in 2029, but until then, scientists are working to ensure all of the spacecraft’s scientific instruments are up to snuff.

Part of this process is ensuring that the imager instrument aboard Psyche is able to capture visuals of the vacuum of space around it. The imager consists of two identical cameras and has already captured a total of 68 images, some of which NASA has shared to showcase Psyche’s first images.

Psyche first images
One of Psyche’s first images. The bottom is an annotated version of the top. Image source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

These images are just a “curtain-opener,” the Psyche imager instrument lead, Jim Bell, explained. The team says it will continue checking out the cameras going forward and that in 2026, it will take test images of Mars as Psyche completes its flyby. Of course, the most exciting images captured by the spacecraft won’t arrive until 2029, when it reaches its destination.

The imager aboard Psyche is able to take pictures through multiple color filters, and the researchers tested each filter during the initial observations showcased here. With these filters, the photos will be able to capture wavelengths of visible and invisible light, allowing us to determine the composition of the metal-rich asteroid Psyche.

Earlier this year, NASA completed a years-long expedition to bring back the first asteroid samples captured by an American spacecraft, allowing us to study samples from the asteroid Bennu more in-depth. The studies of Psyche will only help further our understanding of the universe. You can see some of the images above.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.

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