NASA’s Psych spacecraft will orbit a world we can never find from Earth and have never been before.
The target of NASA’s Psych mission is a metallic asteroid called Psych, located on the main belt between Mars and Jupiter. This is an unexplored world in space.
From ground and space telescopes, the asteroid appears to be a dim spot. What scientists know from radar data is that it is in the shape of a potato and turns to its side.
By analyzing the light reflected from the asteroid, scientists believe that the Psyche asteroid is unusually rich in metals.
The company explains that the uniqueness of this space rock is that it appears to be the exposed nickel-iron core of an ancient planet.
If it does, the asteroid Psyche 16, named after Psyche, the god of Greek-Roman mythology, can provide a closer look at Earth-like rocky terrestrial planets, which are usually hidden under mantle and crust layers.
“If it became part of a metal nucleus, it would be part of the first-generation primitive nuclei in our solar system,” explained Lindy Elkins-Tandon, a Arizona State University scientist and lead researcher on the project.
The metals that make up Psyche 16 are estimated to be more valuable than the entire world economy.
Asteroid worth a large figure
Elkins-Tandon estimates that its iron alone is worth about $ 10,000 quadrillion on Earth. By comparison, the world economy will be worth about $ 84.5 trillion by 2020, according to Forbes.
Launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in August 2022, the Psych will pass over Mars nine months later, using the planet’s gravitational pull toward the asteroid. This is a journey of approximately 2.4 billion kilometers.
The spacecraft will begin its final approach to the asteroid in late 2025. As the spacecraft approaches its target, the mission team directs their cameras and the image of the asteroid psychic changes height from the wide bubble we now know, emerging superficially. Features of this strange world for the first time.
These images will help engineers orient themselves as they prepare to enter orbit in January 2026. The spacecraft’s initial orbit was designed at an altitude of 700 km above the surface of the asteroid at a high and safe altitude.
The gravitational field measurements will become more accurate as the spacecraft approaches and images of the surface will have greater clarity, allowing the board to improve its understanding of the body. Eventually, the spacecraft will establish its final orbit at an altitude of 85 km above the surface.