Home NEWS NASA’s Psyche spacecraft sends first images and data

NASA’s Psyche spacecraft sends first images and data

NASA launched its Psyche mission on October 13 this year. After nearly two months of journey through space with ‘closed eyes’, Psyche has finally seen the ‘first light’. The cameras onboard Psyche were off for all this while. But on Monday (Dec 4), the cameras were turned on and the spacecraft has sent first image back to Earth.

Psyche is already 16 million miles away from Earth and is travelling to its namesake asteroid which is sitting pretty between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. The spacecraft will arrive at the asteroid in 2029.

“The team wanted to test all of the science instruments early in the long journey to make sure they are working as intended, and to ensure there would be plenty of time to calibrate and adjust them as needed,” said NASA.

According to the information released by NASA, the Psyche spacecraft captured the images using pair of identical cameras. In all, 68 images were captured. All of these clicked starfield in the constellation Pisces.


(Image: NASA) The starfield annotated with names of individual stars. This is the image sent back by Psyche.

“The imager team is using the data to verify proper commanding, telemetry analysis, and calibration of the images,” said NASA.

“These initial images are only a curtain-opener,” said Arizona State University’s Jim Bell, the Psyche imager instrument lead. Bell was quoted by NASA.

“For the team that designed and operates this sophisticated instrument, first light is a thrill. We start checking out the cameras with star images like these, then in 2026 we’ll take test images of Mars during the spacecraft’s flyby. And finally, in 2029 we’ll get our most exciting images yet – of our target asteroid Psyche. We look forward to sharing all of these visuals with the public.”

There are multiple colour filters through which the imager captured images. All of these filters were tested in this initial observation.

“With the filters, the team will use photographs in wavelengths of light both visible and invisible to the human eye to help determine the composition of the metal-rich asteroid Psyche. The imager team will also use the data to create 3D maps of the asteroid to better understand its geology, which will give clues about Psyche’s history,” said NASA.

(With inputs from agencies)

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