May 30, 2024
NASA is launching a 10 quintillion mission to a metal planet

One of the biggest objects in the asteroid belt situated between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, Psyche is a strange metal asteroid that QNASA is preparing to send a spacecraft to investigate.  

 Where Psyche, the Metal Asteroid, came from?

This strange 170-mile-wide asteroid, known as Psyche, looks to be unusually rich in iron, nickel, and other metals, suggesting that it may represent the exposed core of a long-lost world. The mission’s goal is to solve the lingering questions surrounding this peculiar asteroid. Psyche has amassed a whimsical nickname as the $10 quintillion asteroid, denoting the potential value of ten million-million-million-million dollars if its metal resources were retrieved.  

Though wind and rain forecasts might cause a delay, the Psyche spacecraft is still scheduled to launch on Thursday, October 12, at 10:16 AM Eastern Daylight Time, aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida. 

The probe is scheduled to reach Psyche in 2029 after travelling 2.2 billion miles, assuming all goes according to plan. Instead than visiting planetary bodies that are mostly composed of rock or ice, this expedition will be the first to explore a metal world.

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Though the actual formation process of Psyche is unknown, astronomers surmise that it might be the nucleus of a tiny, extinct world that once existed far earlier in the solar system’s history. If Psyche is the fragmented remains of a core, it may provide undiscovered information about the centres of other planets, including Earth, that is not accessible through other channels. 

Missions and Vissions

At a press conference on Wednesday NASA’s Science Mission Directorate associate administrator Nicky Fox stated, “We hope that when we get to this metal world, it will reveal a treasure trove of scientific discovery and potential answers to our deepest questions about the solar system’s history and our place in it.”

“The origin of the asteroid itself is a mystery and we hope to uncover that when we get there in 2029 because finding out where it came from will teach us about the formation of our solar system,” Fox continued. “Right now scientists believe that the asteroid Psyche could be part of a metal-rich interior from the remnants of a small planet known as a planetesimal. But there’s also a belief that it could be a totally new type of primordial Solar System Object that’s never been seen before.”

Years of orbiting Psyche will ultimately bring the spacecraft to within 47 miles of the planet’s surface, enabling it to study the landscape using a multispectral imager, spectrometer, magnetometer, and an X-band gravity science investigation. The expedition will also test a laser-based signalling system that may lead to more effective deep space communications while travelling to the asteroid.

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Although many have conjectured that the metal asteroid resources may be mined, prospecting is unrelated to NASA’s planned mission. Furthermore, we currently lack the tools required to harvest resources from a far-off alien planet. Still, there has been a lot of curiosity and conjecture over the mission just because of the existence of this seemingly glittering planet.

“We have a heavy metal mission,” Fox said at the briefing. “We’re going to rock and roll it. Go Psyche!”