NASA plans asteroid mission more valuable than world economy

NASA plans asteroid mission more valuable than world economy

NASA provides photos of rare metal asteroid worth more than entire world's economy

Space agency NASA this week provided a closer look at the rare 226 kilometre space rock, dubbed "16 Psyche", using images snapped by its Hubble telescope. "This is an indication that oxidation is happening on the asteroid, which could be a result of the solar wind hitting the surface". This theory has been supported by estimates of Psyche's bulk density, spectra, and radar surface properties, all of which show it to be an object unlike any others in the asteroid belt.

What are the compositions of Psyche?

Last month, in another landmark space adventure, NASA's mission to collect dust and rocks from a large asteroid with the help of their Osiris-Rex probe was a success.

NASA plans asteroid mission more valuable than world economy

A new study published Monday in The Planetary Science Journal takes a closer look at this mysterious asteroid, using data from the Hubble Telescope.

If the Psyche were the metal nucleus of a planet like never before, studying it closely could tell us a lot about the core of our planet, which we would never have been able to find, Becker said. "It is possible that during the formation of a protoplanet Psyche, it was struck by another object in our solar system and lost its mantle and crust".

Psyche's presentation during Hubble observations.

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"The way the ultraviolet light was reflected from Psyche was very, very similar to the way iron reflects sunlight", she explained. "This could be indicative of it being exposed in space for so long". However, the asteroid's surface does appear to be undergoing what's known as "space weathering". While most asteroids are made of rock or ice, the incredibly dense Psyche is made mostly of metal, and measures about 140 miles in diameter, making it the size of MA. The spacecraft will reach Psyche in January 2026. By examining this rare specimen, it grants us the chance to study the inner core of Earth. It's roughly 225km in diameter, which is almost the size of MA, and is now over 370 million kilometres away from Earth.

The asteroid belt doesn't actually preserve the remnants of the ancient solar system as they once existed; the material present there today has been reworked and reworked in collision after collision.

The questions Elkins-Tanton hopes to find answers to could help us understand "the ingredients that went into making the cake" - that is, our planet.

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"Everyone in the world is going to be able to look at Psyche at the same time we are, and scratch their heads and say, what is this thing?" she told CNN. "Any time there's a surprise, it's always exciting".

The goals of the Psyche mission are to determine if Psyche represents a planetary core or a mass of previously unmelted material, to gather information on its age, to examine the compositional differences between the minerals in Psyche's core and the expected contents of Earth's, to determine the conditions under which it formed, and to characterize its overall topography.

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