Asteroids: NASA to develop spacecraft to explore metal-rich space rock Psyche

Discoveries & Research

The idea of asteroid mining has intrigued space agencies all over the world as space rocks are rich in elements or components that are slowly getting depleted on Earth. NASA is set to develop a spacecraft that can explore one particular asteroid that is revealed to be abundant in metal.

NASA has already begun the development process of an unmanned probe that will be sent up to the asteroid Psyche which is known to be metal-rich. The probe will be launched into space through the SpaceX Falcon Heavy Rocket in 2022. Once it is launched, the probe will fly past Mars and into the asteroid belt between the red planet and Jupiter. The probe will make use of a magnetometer to measure the space rock’s magnetic field, and its multispectral imager will be taking photos of the surface. The probe will also collect data on the asteroid’s composition and topography for scientists to analyze and understand more about the space rock.

Astronomers have also taken an interest in Psyche, as it is believed to be the core of a planet that has lost its external layers.

Psyche measures 225 kilometers in diameter, and the budget for this upcoming mission is slated at $117 million. As of now, the design stage has passed and the team at the agency are beginning to work on bringing the probe to life. According to NASA, the asteroid looks similar to the Earth’s core, which also happens to be abundant in iron and nickel.

However, despite astronomers analyzing the value of the metal found on Psyche, the probe NASA will be sending will not collect samples nor actually land on the surface.

Meanwhile, space enthusiasts can look forward to an upcoming meteor shower this week. Earth will be traveling through the debris left by the Comet Swift-Tuttle, which will lead to some of the smaller fragments making contact with the atmosphere and resulting in a meteor shower. This upcoming meteor shower is called the Perseid meteor shower and will start from July 17 to August 24. Astronomers revealed that the peak days of this phenomenon will be on August 12 and 13, and when it begins, people will see an increase in shooting stars every night when it happens.