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

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

The space agency decided in 2017 that humanity would benefit from taking a closer look. 16 souls. The Psyche mission was originally scheduled to take place at the end of 2022, but delayed due to “development issues”. NASA now planning the launch This is the Psyche spacecraft. October. The ship will reach the ultraprecious asteroid in August 2029.

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

16 What is Spirit?

Psyche 16 Asteroid

Artist’s concept of asteroid 16 Psyche.

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

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

According to astronomers, the metal-rich asteroid is roughly the size of Massachusetts and somewhat reminiscent of a potato. Its average diameter is about 140 miles, or roughly the distance between Los Angeles and San Diego. The asteroid orbits between Mars and Jupiter at a distance ranging from 235 million to 309 million miles from the Sun. (You can get a real-time simulated view of Psyche. the game.)

a study published by Journal of Planetary Science He suggests that in 2020 Psyche is made almost entirely of iron and nickel. This metallic composition distinguishes it from other asteroids, which usually consist of rock or ice, and may suggest that it was originally part of a planetary core. Not only does this represent a very important discovery, it is also key to Psyche’s potential astronomical value: NASA scientist Lindy Elkins-Tanton calculated that: The iron in the asteroid alone could be worth $10,000 quadrillion. (yes, you read that right). For context, the entire global economy is worth roughly $110 trillion at the time of writing. However, the sea current research Researchers from the University of Arizona suggest that the asteroid may not be as metallic or dense as once thought. The research claims that Psyche may actually be closer to a pile of rubble than an exposed planetary core. If true, this devalues ​​the asteroid. NASA’s upcoming mission should definitively settle the debate about Pysche’s composition.

Of course, Psyche isn’t the only valuable rock in space. NASA has foretold The asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter has mineral wealth equivalent to about $100 billion for every individual on Earth. Extracting the precious metals inside 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 certain metals up or down. We’ll leave the complexity of space mining for another day.

Why Is NASA Going to 16 Psyche?

NASA's Psyche Spacecraft

NASA’s Psyche spacecraft in December 2022.


If Psyche is actually the residual core of a planet that was never properly formed, it could reveal secrets about Earth’s own core. The interior of terrestrial planets is normally hidden under the mantle and crust, but Psyche has no such outer layer. The asteroid’s mantle and crust were likely stripped away by multiple violent collisions during the early formation of our solar system. By studying Psyche, we can better understand how the Earth’s core was formed. The mission can also provide insight into the formation of our solar system and planetary systems around other stars.

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

What is Psyche Spacecraft and How Does It Work?

Technicians at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida work on the agency's Psyche spacecraft inside the Payload Hazardous Service Facility (PHSF) on May 3, 2022.  Psyche aims to take off on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket on August 1.  October 1, 2022. The spacecraft will be solar-powered to travel approximately 1.5 billion miles to rendezvous with the asteroid of the same name in 2026.  The Psyche mission is led by Arizona State University.  NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, managed by Caltech in Pasadena, California, is responsible for the mission's overall management, systems engineering, integration and testing, and mission operations.  Maxar Technologies in Palo Alto, California, provided the high-power solar-powered electric propulsion spacecraft chassis.  The launch is managed by NASA's Kennedy-based Launch Services Program (LSP).  Psyche will be the 14th mission in the agency's Discovery program and the LSP's 100th primary mission.

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

NASA/Isaac Watson

Measuring 10 feet by 8 feet, the Psyche is slightly larger than a smart car. The spacecraft will generate its own solar energy instead of running on conventional rocket fuel. It is equipped with large solar panels that will generate electricity to power the ion driver and innovative Hall thruster, making it as big as a tennis court once in place. Essentially, electricity from solar panels is used to convert the fuel source (xenon gas) into xenon ions, which are expelled to provide thrust. (The xenon propellant also produces a cool blue glow.) Pysche will gradually gain speed using its ion propulsion. The spacecraft will also pass by Mars for a gravitational push during its journey to the asteroid.

Additionally, Psyche will be equipped with a range of futuristic technologies. The spacecraft will test something called “Deep Space Optical Communication”, where messages are encoded on photons (particles of light) rather than radio waves. It could mean much more data being transmitted back to Earth in a given period of time.

The vehicle will also have a gamma ray and neutron spectrometer to identify material types in Psyche; a magnetometer to measure the asteroid’s magnetic field; and a multi-spectral imager for capturing high-resolution snapshots. What’s more, Psyche will use radio waves to measure the asteroid’s gravity. This, combined with maps of the asteroid’s surface features, should give us a little more insight into the asteroid’s internal structure.

How Much Will the Psyche Mission Cost?

NASA's Psyche Spacecraft

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


NASA says the total lifecycle mission cost (including the rocket) for Psyche is $985 million. As of last July, a total of 717 million dollars was spent on the project. Compared to $10,000 quadrillion, that sounds like little.

How Long Will the Psyche Quest Take?

NASA's Psyche Spacecraft

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.


Psyche will travel approximately 280 million miles to reach the asteroid of the same name. Spacecraft expected to launch SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket in October 2023. The vehicle will target a gravity boost from Mars in 2026 to aid it in the next phase of its journey. It will then spend 21 months measuring and mapping, gradually narrowing its orbit until it passes just above the Psyche surface. If all goes as planned, Psyche will arrive at the asteroid in August 2029. NASA says the mission team continues to complete tests of the spacecraft’s flight software in preparation for the October launch date. Goodbye, Psyche.

Check out a NASA video about the Psyche mission below:

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