NASA prepares to launch mission to $10,000 quadrillion asteroidtext_fields
NASA is in the final stages of readying the Psyche spacecraft for launch, scheduled for October 12th.
This mission aims to explore an asteroid estimated to be worth $10,000 quadrillion, potentially exceeding the total global economy's value. The rock appears to be the exposed nickel-iron core of an early planet, one of the building blocks of our solar system.
"Because we cannot see or measure Earth's core directly, Psyche offers a unique window into the violent history of collisions and accretion that created terrestrial planets," said NASA. Scientists are eager to explore a new type of world. For the first time, examine a world made not of rock and ice, but metal.
The targeted asteroid is situated within the outer region of the primary asteroid belt, positioned between Mars and Jupiter. The launch of the Psyche spacecraft is planned for 10:16 a.m. EDT on Thursday, October 12th, utilising a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.
The primary objective of this mission is to conduct an in-depth study of this celestial body, offering valuable insights into planetary cores and the formation of Earth itself.
The team is also looking forward to studying whether Psyche is a core or unmelted material. They also want to determine the relative ages of its surface and characterise its topography.
NASA indicates that the Psyche asteroid provides a unique opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the fundamental elements involved in the formation of planets, exploring an uncharted category of celestial bodies.
For context, the cumulative GDP of the entire world currently stands at approximately $105 trillion, significantly dwarfed by the estimated worth of the Psyche asteroid at $10,000 quadrillion.
This mission, known as Psyche, encompasses both the name of the asteroid, located within the Sun's orbit between Mars and Jupiter and the NASA space mission aimed at investigating this asteroid. The mission is led by Arizona State University and was selected by NASA on January 4, 2017, as one of two missions within the agency's Discovery Programme, designed for relatively cost-effective missions targeting solar system destinations.
The Psyche spacecraft will employ solar-electric (low-thrust) propulsion for its journey to the asteroid, involving a Mars flyby and gravity assist. Upon reaching the asteroid, the mission's plan involves comprehensive mapping and the study of its various properties.