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NASA To Explore An Asteroid Composed of 'Quadrillion' of Metals

Jan 18, 2017 12:48 PM EST
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NASA has been active when it comes to missions geared towards understanding asteroids such as the OSIRIS-REx launched last year. But aside from that, a few more is expected to occur including one that will target an asteroid made up of "quadrillion" of metals.

Psyche is the asteroid and the name of the new NASA mission. The asteroid 16 Psyche is found between the planets Jupiter and Mars. Reports say that the mission is a low-cost one and was chosen by NASA to explore bodies within the solar system.

The solar-electric propelled spacecraft is likely to fly by 2023. The spacecraft is expected to reach the target destination by 2030. The mission will observe and map the asteroid.

Psyche will explore a giant metallic asteroid in the asteroid belt. 16 Psyche is about 130 miles (210 kilometers) in diameter. The metallic components could be compared to the Earth's core with nickel and metallic iron. The mission is also expected to give light to the process that is responsible for the separation of layers on asteroids.

"16 Psyche is the only known object of its kind in the solar system, and this is the only way humans will ever visit a core. We learn about inner space by visiting outer space," said Psyche Principal Investigator Lindy Elkins-Tanton of Arizona State University in Tempe.

"This is an opportunity to explore a new type of world - not one of rock or ice, but of metal," said Psyche Principal Investigator Lindy Elkins-Tanton of Arizona State University in Tempe in a statement.

Psyche will get additional support from the Near-Earth Object Camera (NEOCam) since NASA announced that funding for the project will be extended for another year. The agency is also allegedly looking into the mining of minerals found on the asteroid, a report said.

The asteroid with a said "quadrillion" metals is almost the size of Massachusetts. The metals on the asteroid aren't just NASA's intention to visit the asteroid. Experts say that Psyche could be a "protoplanet" or might be a core of an old one. Some even argue that the asteroid could formerly part of the red planet destroyed by massive collisions.

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