In less than 80 days NASA and SpaceX will send a spacecraft powered by the sun on a journey of 2.5 billion miles (four billion kilometers) to the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter to reveal the truth about an asteroid called 16 Psyche.
Due to its unusual composition of iron and nickel there is speculation that 16 Psyche could be worth around $10,000 quadrillion. More importantly, perhaps, it will allow planetary scientists to study an iron core similar to the one located at the center of Earth – and reveal a new type of metal world in the solar system.
In the Download the update from NASA posted online the space agency said today that a team of 30 engineers and technicians are working almost around the clock to get the spacecraft – also known as Psyche – ready.
Psyche is scheduled to launch atop a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket from Space Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center at 10:38 a.m. EDT (7:38 a.m. PDT) on Thursday, October 5, 2023. The launch window extends to Wednesday, October 25, 2023.
Psyche is typically used to launch heavy satellites, and Psyche is the first interplanetary launch for the Falcon Heavy.
Countdown to Address
“The team and I are now counting the days to launch,” said Henry Stone, Psyche project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “The team is engaged in numerous training activities to ensure we are ready and prepared. It’s a very busy time, but everyone is very pleased and looking forward to the launch.”
With the science instruments, spacecraft hardware and software checked and ready, the next step will be attaching Psyche’s massive solar panels. In mid-August all 2,392 pounds (1,085 kilograms) of xenon propellant will be loaded into the spacecraft.
Once NASA’s spacecraft aims to spend 26 months mapping the orbits and studying the properties of the asteroid.
16 Psyche is a rare metal asteroid that may be composed of iron, nickel and gold, but this is based only on observations of its brightness made by telescopes.
About 173 miles (279 kilometers) wide, it is thought to be the core of a failed planet, making it of great interest to planetary astronomers. It is one of the most massive objects in the asteroid belt. The Earth has a metal core, mantle and crust. Metal asteroids are considered the likely source of iron meteorites found on Earth.
“For many years, M-type asteroids were thought to be the core of planetesimals, or minor planets, stripped of their silicates and organic mantles by collisions in the early solar system,” said Noemí Pinilla-Alonso, a planetary scientist at the University of Central Florida.Florida Space Institute, who are using the new Twin Two-meter Telescope (TTT) in the Canary Islands, Spain, to study metal-rich M-type asteroids. “A later theory, based on detailed studies of the largest M-type asteroid, 16 Psyche, holds that these bodies were removed much closer to the sun, while still partially molten, and then dynamically moved to their current location.”
Do you wish a clear sky and wide eyes.