NASA’s Psyche spacecraft | SkyNews
NASA’s Psyche spacecraft (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU)

Mission delays; getting Psyche back on track

NASA plans to incorporate recommendations from an independent review board.

Budgetary and staffing problems means NASA’s mission to Venus has been delayed by three years. In the meantime, the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) moved staff to its Psyche mission after missing its August 2022 launch window.

Psyche is an orbiter that will study a metal-rich asteroid of the same name. It is now scheduled to launch in October 2023. The delay comes after an independent review board concluded Psyche missed its launch date because of staff shortages and communication problems. COVID-19 restrictions also slowed progress on the project.

The Psyche asteroid is an exposed nickel-iron core of an early planet. Because scientists cannot study Earth’s core directly, Psyche offers a look into the inner history of a planet’s formation.

To get Psyche back on track and prevent other projects from missing their launch dates, the Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography and Spectroscopy (VERITAS) mission is now launching no later than 2031.

VERITAS is an orbiter that will study the surface and interior of Venus, and find insight into how the planet became an inferno. The spacecraft will include contributions from Italy, France, and Germany.

Magellan, NASA’s last mission to Venus, arrived in orbit in 1989 and ended in 1994. In 2021, NASA approved the orbiters VERITAS and the Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging (DAVINCI).

DAVINCI is still scheduled to launch in 2029. The VERITAS mission was in its early development stages when the delay was announced. It was originally meant to launch in December 2027.