"Psyche [...] may be the exposed metal core of an early planet, the soul of a celestial body."

NASA to send a robotic mission to rare metal asteroid


Sat, Jan 7th, 2017 10:00 by capnasty NEWS

Today I learnt that between Mars and Jupiter lies a giant metal asteroid — a rarity in itself — named Psyche by Italian astronomer Annibale de Gasparis. Even more interesting, the asteroid may actually be the metal core of a planet that never happened during the making of our solar system. According to The Atlantic, NASA is planning on a robotic mission to this asteroid, which could potentially pave the way to asteroid mining. Is it going to? Can we just get started already?

Seven years from now, we’ll find out for sure. Earlier this week, NASA chose to fund an eponymous robotic mission to Psyche, scheduled to launch in 2023. The mission marks the first time spacecraft will visit a metallic asteroid, an extremely rare object in the solar system. Similar NASA missions have only visited rocky and icy worlds, like planets and other asteroids, like Vesta and Ceres. Scientists believe Psyche could have grown to be the size of Mars, but its rocky outer layers were smashed away by a series of collisions billions of years ago. What remains, a world made of metallic nickel and oil, is about the size of Massachusetts.

“By visiting Psyche, we can literally visit a planetary core the only way that humankind ever can,” Lindy Elkins-Tanton, the Psyche mission's lead investigator, told reporters Wednesday. “It’s 1,800 miles to the Earth’s core, and the deepest humans have ever managed to drill is seven-and-a-half miles.”



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