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NASA mission to capture asteroid worth $10,000,000,000,000,000,000 lifts off successfully

Niamh Shackleton

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NASA mission to capture asteroid worth $10,000,000,000,000,000,000 lifts off successfully

Featured Image Credit: NASA / Handout

NASA is officially on its way to the asteroid 16 Psyche.

The space station announced over the summer that it was going to set off for the faraway asteroid, named 16 Psyche, which is said to be filled with precious metals worth an eye-watering $10,000,000,000,000,000,000.

A press release issued by NASA in July read: "With less than 100 days to go before its launch, teams of engineers and technicians are working almost around the clock to ensure the orbiter is ready to journey 2.5 billion miles to a metal-rich asteroid that may tell us more about planetary cores and how planets form."

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While the asteroid's contents is worth a staggering amount, NASA aren't going to 16 Psyche purely to harvest its precious metals, but to learn more about planetary cores and how planets form.

The spacecraft - a SpaceX Falcon Heavy from Space Launch Complex 39A - was initially scheduled to launch last year but was pushed back due to software issues.

Now, the long-awaited mission has officially taken to the skies today (October 13).

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The spacecraft will travel 2.2 billion-miles (3.5 billion km) to get to the asteroid, which is located in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

The SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket launched on Friday, October 13. Credits: Aubrey Gemignani/NASA via Getty Images
The SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket launched on Friday, October 13. Credits: Aubrey Gemignani/NASA via Getty Images

With the very long distance that the SpaceX craft needs to travel, the rocket isn't expected to reach its destination until July 2029.

It's reported that the ship will get a little velocity boost from Mars when passing it in May 2026.

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There are nine metal-rich asteroids known to exist in our solar system, but 16 Psyche is the largest - which is why NASA chose it.

Nicola Fox, associate administrator for NASA's science mission directorate, explained, as per Space.com: "Psyche is by far the largest, and that's why we want to go to it because the smaller ones are more likely to have been changed by things impacting them, whereas the big one, we think, is going to be completely unchanged."

The asteroid is believed to be worth $10 quintillion. Credit: Maxar/ASU/P. Rubin/NASA/JPL-Caltech
The asteroid is believed to be worth $10 quintillion. Credit: Maxar/ASU/P. Rubin/NASA/JPL-Caltech

According to NASA, the asteroid measures a whopping 173 miles (280 km) across and 144 miles (232 km) long, while its surface area is 64,000 square miles (165,800 square km).

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In terms of just how much metal is on 16 Psyche, the space station predicts that metal makes up 30 to 60 percent of its overall volume.

"The asteroid’s composition has been determined by radar observations and by the measurements of the asteroid’s thermal inertia (how quickly an object gains or re-radiates heat)," NASA's website adds.

Topics: Technology, News, Space, SpaceX, NASA

Niamh Shackleton
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