NASA is targeting this unique asteroid – not rock or ice, it’s metal

NASA’s Psyche mission aims to study this unique metal-rich asteroid that can reveal the secrets of collisions and accretion that created planets.

NASA is already studying an asteroid called Bennu under its OSIRIS-REx mission to better understand its features. It even plans to return a sample from asteroid Bennu to Earth for detailed analysis. Although Bennu has turned out to be very interesting, there is another asteroid on NASA’s radar and it is quite unique. NASA, under its Psyche mission, wants to target a unique asteroid orbiting the sun between Mars and Jupiter. What makes this asteroid different from others is that it appears to be the exposed nickel-iron core of an early planet, one of the building blocks of our solar system. Yes, this asteroid is not made up of rocks or ice, it is all metal.

It will be the first mission designed to study a metal-rich asteroid by NASA, which will help understand a previously untapped building block of planet formation – iron cores. What makes the Psyche mission important is that it offers a great opportunity to study the history of collisions and accretion that created terrestrial planets. Because the metallic cores on the terrestrial planet, even on Earth, are hidden far beneath the rocky mantles and crusts, they are inaccessible for study purposes. Therefore, this asteroid offers a great opportunity to reveal some secrets about planet formation.

NASA’s Psyche Mission to the Metal-Rich Asteroid

According to the schedule, NASA was set to launch the Psyche spacecraft in August 2022. However, due to software issues, the mission’s launch has now been delayed to 2023. NASA says, “Due to the late delivery of the flight software and testing of the spacecraft equipment, NASA does not have sufficient time to complete the necessary tests prior to the remaining launch period of this year, which ends on October 11. The mission team needs more time to ensure that the software will function properly during the flight.”

According to the preset schedule, NASA expected the arrival of the Psyche spacecraft in the asteroid’s orbit by 2026. Furthermore, it plans to spend 21 months in the asteroid’s orbit to map and study the properties of the Psyche. NASA says the Psyche mission is expected to launch in both 2023 and 2024, but due to uncertainties, the exact dates of these possible launch periods have yet to be determined.

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