On Dec. 4, the cameras of NASA’s Psyche spacecraft took their first images 26 million kilometers away from Earth. This milestone, called “first light,” was one of many the agency needed to complete on its way to its destination, a metallic asteroid called 16 Psyche. The spacecraft is set to reach this asteroid in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter in 2029.
Psyche was launched on Oct. 13 atop a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket from Launch Complex 39A at the Kenedy Space Center in Florida. A few hours after launch, the spacecraft entered an initial checkout phase that is set to last about 100 days, during which teams will test the spacecraft’s instruments and systems to verify they are working as planned. Testing the spacecraft’s cameras was the latest step in this phase to be completed.