Photo credit: SSL/ASU/P. Rubin/NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA’s Psyche Mission aims to explore a metal asteroid that could be the heart of a planet, and is readying for a 2022 launch. The final design as well as fabrication phase has been approved by Washington, and this is where the Psyche team finalizes the system design, develops detailed plans and procedures for the spacecraft / science mission, and completes both assembly, along with testing of the spacecraft and its subsystems. Just how much could this metal asteroid be worth? Some are speculating it at up to $700 quintillion due to all the precious metals.
The Psyche spacecraft is set to arrive at Asteroid Psyche on Jan. 31, 2026, after flying by Mars in 2023. Unlike most other asteroids, which are rocky or icy, scientists think Psyche is composed mostly of iron and nickel, similar to Earth’s core. This mission will delve into the building blocks of planet formation by exploring firsthand a wholly new and uncharted type of world. The spacecraft’s instrument payload includes three science instruments: a magnetometer designed to detect and measure the remnant magnetic field of the asteroid; the multispectral imager for high-resolution images; a gamma ray and neutron spectrometer to detect, measure and map Psyche’s elemental composition. It will also test a sophisticated new laser communications technology, called Deep Space Optical Communications.