NewsNASA launched a probe. Target: asteroid worth $10 quintillion

NASA launched a probe. Target: asteroid worth $10 quintillion

Launch of NASA probe from Cape Canaveral in Florida
Launch of NASA probe from Cape Canaveral in Florida
Images source: © PAP | PAP/EPA/NASA/Aubrey Gemignani HANDOUT
ed. KRO
7:56 AM EDT, October 15, 2023

On Friday, NASA launched a spacecraft towards the asteroid Psyche. The machine took off from the John F. Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Its mission is to investigate the largest of several metal-rich asteroids known in the Solar System.

The probe is the size of a small van. It was launched using SpaceX Falcon Heavy. Over the next few years, it will travel a distance of around 2.2 billion miles. It will reach the asteroid Psyche in August 2029, and the mission will end two years later.

Here is the course of the probe's mission

After reaching the asteroid, the probe is expected to orbit it for 26 months, scanning Psyche with instruments built to measure its gravity, magnetic properties, and composition. It is believed that Psyche (…) consists mainly of iron, nickel, gold, and other metals, the total hypothetical monetary value of which is estimated at 10 trillion dollars – Reuters reported.

However, scientists emphasize that the mission has nothing to do with space mining. Its goal is to gain insight into the formation of Earth and other rocky planets, built around cores of molten metal.

Scientists plan to map the iron composition in Psyche. They will utilize a spectrometer to measure the molecular signatures of gamma rays and neutrons, emitted by atoms of the asteroid bombarded with cosmic radiation from the Sun.

The probe is set to orbit the asteroid at just about 40 miles from its surface. The mission will end in November 2031.

What is Psyche?

Psyche is an asteroid discovered in 1852, and it's named after a Greek goddess. It is the largest of about nine known asteroids, between the planets Mars and Jupiter, which - according to radar observations - are mainly composed of metals with a mixture of rocky material. Its diameter is about 173 miles at the widest point.

Reuters noted that the asteroid is considered a remnant of the core of an ancient protoplanet.

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