NASA Weighs Early Exploration Mission to All Metal 16-Psyche Asteroid

NASA, ISRO, JAXA, or EPA — all space agencies vie for rare minerals whether it is tungsten on the moon or now the latest 16-Psyche asteroid full of iron and other metals worth $10,000 quadrillion compared to $72 trillion worth metals available now on Earth.

However, NASA plans to look for outer planet resources though it is left to future generations to extract them and bring them on to the earth. Lindy Elkins-Tanton, lead scientist on the NASA mission once said, “Even if we could grab a big metal piece and drag it back here … what would you do?” Let the future decide!

Psyche, named after a human figure in Greek mythology who earned immortality, discovered in the asteroid belt located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, measures 240 km in diameter. The largeest in the belt is Ceres, with a diameter of 965 km.

But what has made NASA to push for its exploration is that it has the largest exposed iron metal body in the asteroid belt. The mission launch for 16 Psyche has now been pushed forward by a year from 2023 to summer 2022 by NASA.

The space agency had originally announced that it would be launching its 16 Psyche Discovery Mission in 2023, but has just brought that forward to the summer of 2022. It means the mission will reach the asteroid by 2026.

“We challenged the mission design team to explore if an earlier launch date could provide a more efficient trajectory to the asteroid Psyche, and they came through in a big way,” said Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

The celestial object is entirely unique in the Solar System with full of iron core, without any rocky or icy coatings. Scientists believe that some massive collisions might have stripped it of its silicate crust and mantle, leaving it with just 10 percent silicate rock and the rest metal.

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