In a stroke of luck, the engineering team for the asteroid probe Psyche discovered an attitude thruster problem only two weeks before launch that could have destroyed the mission, and were able to fix it quickly.
The issue was discovered during pre-flight tests that showed the settings used to operate the thrusters were incorrect. At the planned 80 percent power level, analysis indicated higher-than-expected temperatures could cause damage.
As it turned out, the fix did not require any hardware or software changes. Just an updated table of parameters used by the probe’s flight computer, instructing it to fire the thrusters at what amounts to a lower power level. Maneuvers will take longer to complete, but that will not affect the mission.
Nonetheless, this problem should not have been discovered so late, and suggests that the management issues from other software problems that forced a year delay in the launch last year have not been completely solved. If I was the project scientist for this mission, I would be very uncomfortable about its future.
Hopefully, no more serious problems will occur, and after its Falcon Heavy launch on October 12 it will fly past Mars to aim for an August 2029 arrival at the metal asteroid Psyche.
On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.
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"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News