NASA Launching Mission to Metal Asteroid to Protect Earth's Future

Monday, 04 December 2017 - 2:49PM
Monday, 04 December 2017 - 2:49PM
NASA Launching Mission to Metal Asteroid to Protect Earth's Future
< >
Image credit: Pixabay
NASA has announced it's launching a mission targeting a metal asteroid named Psyche in order to protect the future of Earth.

So far, every world NASA has explored has had either an icy, rocky surface, or been gas giants such as Jupiter and Saturn.

As much information as these missions have acquired, no planetary core has been reached—not even the Earth's.

To better study what may be at the center of such planets worlds, including our own, NASA's Psyche Mission will provide us with our first-ever look at what is believed to be a huge bulking mass of nickel-iron. 


While we're normally excited to search for signs of life, this mission has a different purpose: NASA wants to learn more about what's inside Psyche.
NASA believes Psyche is a survivor of the formation of the solar system, back when space surrounding the Sun was much more volatile, and things were slamming into each other with higher frequency.

Some researchers have proposed that it was once a protoplanet, but lost its mantle due to excessive, violent impacts. Which, considering its immense size (it measures more than 100 miles), isn't too surprising. 

NASA hopes its craft will help us figure out how Psyche came to such a fate in order to possibly prevent something similar happening to Earth. 

With multispectral imagers (for high-resolution pictures), an X-band radio telecommunications system (to measure the gravity field) and magnetometers (to measure any remaining magnetic field), as well as both a neutron and a gamma ray spectrometer (to determine elemental structure), NASA is prepared to get to the bottom of that question once and for all. 
Of course, in the scheme of things, learning about Psyche might be the easy part. Landing on an asteroid is no simple task. 


Following its summer 2022 launch, the craft will swing by Mars by May 2023 to snag a gravity assist, which will hopefully propel it to Psyche by January 2026.

Originally slated for a 2023 launch, NASA rethought its plans in May and deicded to push the mission up one year earlier due to the potential benefit of the study.

"We are all extremely excited that NASA was able to accommodate this earlier launch date. The world will see this amazing metal world so much sooner," said the mission's Principal Investigator Lindy Elkins-Tanton, director of Arizona State University's School of Earth and Space Exploration.
NASA Launching Mission to Metal Asteroid to Protect Earth