NASA announces launch date to visit asteroid worth 70,000 times global economy
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Featured Image Credit: Horizon International Images / gre jak / Alamy Stock Photo
NASA has announced the timescale for sending up a rocket to an asteroid that is worth more than the entire economy of our own planet.
It’s called Psyche, and it’s made out of metals that – if we could mine them and get them back down here – would be worth an eye-watering sum of money.
But that’s not necessarily the important thing about it.
It could be that the hurtling lump of space stuff is the former core of another planet that was bashed around at the very birth of our solar system, meaning there could be some stuff that we could learn about our own planet from heading to Psyche.
That’s why NASA wants to start a mission up there in October 2023.
It was originally planning to start that mission last year, but software problems pushed everything back.
Now though, it's finally getting everything underway.
"The Psyche project is targeting an October 2023 launch on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket," the US space agency wrote.
Of course, the distances involved in a mission such as this are pretty vast, so the exploratory spacecraft will not arrive at the destination until August 2029.
It had originally been hoped that the module – also called Psyche – would arrive in early 2026, but they’ve had to change the trajectory, which means it’ll take longer.
Psyche – named after the Greek god of the soul – was first identified on March 17 1852 by an Italian astronomer called Annibale de Gasparis.
It is around the size of the US state of Massachusetts with an average diameter of about 140 miles.
Psyche is in an orbit around Mars and Jupiter, placing it a massive 309 million miles from the sun at the furthest extent of that orbit.
The scientists believe that almost the entire asteroid is made up of iron and nickel, as opposed to the rock and ice that makes up many asteroids.
That suggests it is made of a planet’s core – or what used to be one – and gives it an estimated worth of $10 quintillion.
To put that into context, that’s a 20 figure number, and is a lot more than the global economy is worth.
In fact, we’re only at $110 trillion right now, so it’s a lot more.
There is a bit of dispute about that, as some scientists have said it could just be a bit of a rubble pile, so we’ll find out once NASA gets up there.
The numbers are somewhat superfluous anyway, as there’s currently no way we’d be able to get all that metal back from where it is, let alone down to earth successfully and safely.
Still, there’s great scientific value in the mission, even if we aren’t all going to become rich from it.