New Video Series Reveals What Drives NASA’s Psyche Mission Team

What motivates someone to labor for years to help build something that will be rocketed into space, never to be seen again on our planet? For the scientists, engineers, and technicians behind NASA’s Psyche mission to a metal-rich asteroid, the answers are wide-ranging but share a common thread: a passion to explore the unknown.

That inspiration is highlighted in the new “Behind the Spacecraft” video series, in which five members of the Psyche team tell the story of how they ended up on a mission designed to answer questions about the mysterious asteroid Psyche.

Watch a trailer about the series here:

  • Christina Hernandez, a flight systems engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, helped guide the team through the verification-and-validation phase of the mission to ready the spacecraft for the extreme conditions of space. For her, engineering is a way to make science fiction reality. And as a heavy metal fan, she’s excited that Psyche is a mission bound for a metal world.
  • Meena Sreekantamurthy, a power electronics engineer at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, worked on the power supply unit for one of the spacecraft’s science instruments. She paints and draws in her free time and marvels that something she helped build with her own hands will reach the asteroid belt.
  • Ben Inouye is an engineer who worked on the team that designed and built the spacecraft power system. Before coming to JPL, which manages the mission, he worked as a marine engineer. Now he draws a line from the discoveries made at sea to those that the Psyche mission’s robotic quest hopes to make.
  • Julie Li oversaw development of the spacecraft’s sci-fi-worthy solar electric propulsion hardware at Maxar Technologies. As a child, she wanted to be an astronaut, and her first job after college was as a design engineer on NASA’s space shuttle. Today, the spacecraft builder is also an outdoor adventurer.
  • Luis Dominguez is the systems and electrical lead at JPL for the assembly, test, and launch operations phase of the mission. As someone who never imagined as a child that he’d be an engineer working somewhere like JPL, he urges the kids he meets to embrace their curiosity. (The video featuring Dominguez will also be available in Spanish.)

Livestreams and Broadcasts

Produced by NASA 360, the videos will be released weekly on Tuesdays starting Aug. 22. JPL will host a livestream with Julie Li at 1 p.m. EDT (10 a.m. PDT) Sept. 13 and one with Luis Dominguez at 1 p.m. EDT (10 a.m. PDT) Sept. 20 on JPL YouTube, Facebook, and X. Questions can be submitted via the livestream chats.

Also, Psyche experts will answer questions about the mission in a NASA Science Live show airing at 3:30 p.m. EDT (12:30 p.m. PDT) Wednesday, Aug. 23. The broadcast will appear on NASA YouTube, Facebook, and X, as well as on NASA TV. Viewers can submit questions on social media using the hashtag #askNASA or by leaving a comment in the chat section of the Facebook or YouTube stream.

Psyche is set to launch atop a SpaceX Falcon Heavy from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center at 10:38 a.m. EDT (7:38 a.m. PDT) on Oct. 5, with additional opportunities scheduled through Oct. 25.

More About the Mission

Measuring about 173 miles (279 kilometers) at its widest point, the asteroid Psyche may be the partial core of a planetesimal (one of the building blocks of a rocky planet), or it could be primordial material that never melted. The Psyche mission aims to find out, and to help answer fundamental questions about Earth’s own metal core and the formation of our solar system. Once the spacecraft reaches Psyche in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter in 2029, it will spend at least 26 months orbiting its target, gathering images and other data that will tell scientists more about the asteroid’s history and what it is made of.

Arizona State University leads the Psyche mission. A division of Caltech in Pasadena, JPL is responsible for the mission’s overall management, system engineering, integration and test, and mission operations. Maxar Technologies in Palo Alto, California, provided the high-power solar electric propulsion spacecraft chassis.

JPL also is providing a technology demonstration instrument called Deep Space Optical Communications that will fly on Psyche in order to test high-data-rate laser communications that could be used by future NASA missions.

Psyche is the 14th mission selected as part of NASA’s Discovery Program, managed by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

For more information about NASA’s Psyche mission go to:

http://www.nasa.gov/psyche

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