NASA’s Journey to an Asteroid Worth 70,000 Times the Global Economy – Robb Report

NASA's Journey to an Asteroid Worth 70,000 Times the Global Economy - Robb Report
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NASAs mission is one asteroid that could be worth 70,000 times the world economy is expected to start this year.

The space agency decided in 2017 that it would benefit from a closer look at humanity 16 psyche. The Psyche mission was originally supposed to take place at the end of 2022, but it did was delayed due to “developmental issues”. NASA now plans to launch Psyche spaceship this October. The spacecraft should reach the ultra-precious asteroid in August 2029.

Here’s everything we know so far about asteroid Psyche, the upcoming Psyche mission, and the Psyche spacecraft.

16 What is Psyche?

Psyche 16 Asteroid

Artist’s concept of asteroid 16 Psyche.

Makhar/ASU/P. Rubin/NASA/JPL-Calt

Psyche, named after the Greek goddess of spirit, was discovered on March 17, 1852 by the Italian astronomer Annibale de Gasparis. A giant M-type asteroid is thought to be the partial core of a small planet that did not fully form in its early days. of our solar system.

Astronomers say the metal-rich asteroid is about the size of Massachusetts and looks a bit like a potato. Its average diameter is about 140 miles, or about the distance between Los Angeles and San Diego. The asteroid orbits between Mars and Jupiter between 235 million and 309 million miles from the Sun. (You can get a real-time simulated view of Psyche here.)

a study published by Journal of Planetary Science 2020 shows that Psyche is made almost entirely of iron and nickel. This metallic composition distinguishes it from other asteroids, which are usually composed of rock or ice, and suggests that it was originally part of a planetary core. This is not only a remarkable discovery, but also the key to Psyche’s potentially astronomical value: NASA scientist Lindy Elkins-Tanton believes that The iron in the asteroid alone could be worth up to $10,000 quadrillion (yes, you read that right). For context, the entire global economy is worth about $110 trillion. However, more recent research An expert from the University of Arizona suggests that the asteroid may not be as metallic or dense as once thought. The study claims that the psyche may actually be closer to a pile of debris than an open planetary core. If true, this would devalue the asteroid. An upcoming NASA mission should settle the controversy over Pysche’s composition once and for all.

Of course, Psyche isn’t the only precious rock in space. There is NASA said before The asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter holds the equivalent of about $100 billion in mineral wealth for every individual on Earth. Extracting the precious metals from each asteroid and successfully returning them to earth is the hard part. Then you have the whole puzzle of supply and demand that can drive the price of specific metals up or down. We’ll leave the complexities of space mining for another day.

Why is NASA traveling to 16 psyches?

NASA Psyche Spacecraft

NASA’s Psyche spacecraft in December 2022.


If Psyche is actually the remnant core of a planet that never formed properly, it could reveal secrets about Earth’s own core. The interior of terrestrial planets is usually hidden beneath the mantle and crust, but Psyche has no such outer layers. During the early formation of our solar system, the asteroid’s mantle and crust were likely torn apart by multiple violent collisions. By studying the psyche, we can further understand how the Earth’s core was formed. The mission could also provide information on the formation of our solar system and planetary systems around other stars.

According to NASA, this is humanity’s first discovery of a world made mostly of metal. The Psyche spacecraft will use special instruments to determine the types of materials that make up the asteroid. For example, is it really iron and nickel? Or something else? The spacecraft will also measure Psyche’s gravity and magnetic field and determine the asteroid’s topography. All this will tell us more about the history and evolution of Psyche.

What is Psyche Spaceship and how does it work?

On May 3, 2022, technicians at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida perform work inside the Payload Hazardous Service Facility (PHSF) on the agency's Psyche spacecraft.  While at PHSF, the spacecraft will undergo routine processing and maintenance prior to launch.  Psyche aims to lift off on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket in August.  1, 2022. The spacecraft will use solar-electric propulsion to travel about 1.5 billion miles to rendezvous with its home asteroid in 2026.  The Psyche mission is led by Arizona State University.  For the agency, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, operated by Caltech in Pasadena, California, is responsible for overall mission management, systems engineering, integration and testing, and mission operations.  Palo Alto, California-based Maxar Technologies has provided the chassis for the high-powered solar-powered spacecraft.  NASA's Launch Services Program (LSP) at Kennedy manages the launch.  Psyche will be the 14th mission in the agency's Discovery program and the LSP's 100th primary mission.

Technicians work on Psyche at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

NASA/Isaac Watson

At 10 feet by 8 feet, the Psyche is slightly larger than a smart car. Instead of running on conventional rocket fuel, the spacecraft will generate its own solar energy. It is equipped with large solar panels that make it as big as a tennis court once it’s up and running, which generate electricity to power the ion drive and the innovative new Hall thruster. In fact, electricity from solar panels is used to convert a fuel source (xenon gas) into xenon ions that are ejected to provide propulsion. (Xenon fuel also produces a cool blue glow.) Pysche will use ion motion to gradually increase speed. The spacecraft will also pass by Mars for gravity during its journey to the asteroid.

In addition, Psyche will be equipped with a number of futuristic technologies. The spacecraft will test something called “Deep Space Optical Communication,” where messages are encoded in photons (particles of light) instead of radio waves. This could mean transmitting more data to Earth in a given amount of time.

The craft will also have a gamma-ray and neutron spectrometer to identify the types of materials on Psyche; a magnetometer to measure the asteroid’s magnetic field; and a multispectral imager to capture high-resolution images of it. In addition, Psyche will use radio waves to measure the asteroid’s gravity. This, along with maps of the asteroid’s surface features, should tell us more about the asteroid’s internal structure.

How much will a psychic mission cost?

NASA Psyche Spacecraft

The Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP) chassis of NASA’s Psyche spacecraft.


NASA reports that the total life-cycle mission cost for Psyche (including the rocket) is $985 million. A total of 717 million dollars were spent on the project until July of last year. That sounds like a pittance compared to $10,000 quadrillion.

How long will the psychic mission take?

NASA Psyche Spacecraft

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.


Psyche will travel about 280 million miles to reach its asteroid. The spacecraft is expected to be launched on the moon SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket in October 2023. The spacecraft will aim for a gravity assist from Mars in 2026 to help it on the next leg of its journey. It will then spend 21 months measuring and mapping, gradually tightening its orbit until it passes just above the surface of Psyche. If all goes as planned, Psyche will reach the asteroid in August 2029. NASA says the mission team continues to complete tests of the spacecraft’s flight program in preparation for an October launch date. Good luck, Psyche.

Watch a NASA video of the Psyche mission below:

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