NASA and Space X will explore a rare metallic asteroid

Inspenet, October 24, 2023.

NASA and Space X united by a mission

NASA, together with Elon Musk’s Space X company, launched a new mission to an unusual asteroid. The journey of the Psyche spacecraft, which is estimated to last six years, began last Friday, October 13, with the launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Psyche, named after the same asteroid it will investigate, is expected to reach this massive object in 2029. NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Director Laurie Leshin expressed her excitement, while Jim Bell, a member of the Psyche team, added that the trip has been a success so far.

This mission is innovative because it is the first time that an asteroid with these characteristics has been explored. Most asteroids are rocky or icy, but in this case, scientists and experts suspect it could be a remnant of the core of an ancient planet. If this theory is confirmed, the discovery could open the door to the resolution of numerous unknowns about the inaccessible center of the Earth and other rocky planets, shedding light on thousands of questions and mysteries.

More about Psyche

Psyche was discovered in 1852 and is the largest metallic asteroid orbiting the Sun among the nine known so far. It is found in the outer part of the asteroid belt, located between Mars and Jupiter, along with a multitude of other space rocks.

Astronomers, based on radar observations, estimate that Psyche is a large asteroid, with dimensions of 232 km on its widest axis and 280 km on its longest axis. Regarding its composition, it is believed that it contains up to 60% iron, nickel and other metals, in addition to possible traces of silicates. Its matte gray surface could be covered in small metallic grains that could be remains of cosmic impacts.

It should be noted that the Psyche mission is an innovative project that has required almost a decade of planning by NASA. During all those years, scientists observed the asteroid they intend to explore through ground and space telescopes while the future mission was being shaped.

It was in 2015 when NASA officially selected the Psyche mission as part of the Discovery Program, with the purpose of developing it. Finally, in 2017, the mission received official approval, marking the beginning of the design of the spacecraft and instruments necessary to carry out this exciting space exploration, which finally took off last Friday.


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