NASA has confirmed plans to explore an asteroid that could potentially make everyone on Earth a billionaire.
The Psyche mission will aim to study the 140-mile-wide Psyche asteroid orbiting the Sun between Mars and Jupiter.
While this may sound like the plot of Armageddon, the popular early 2000s sci-fi film starring Bruce Willis, this is in fact real life.
In news that would certainly excite Austin Power’s supervillain Goldmember, the asteroid is actually full of gold.
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According to Forbes, the asteroid could contain a core of iron, nickel and gold worth $10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (£8000 quadrillion).
The Psyche is composed of materials similar to those found in the core of Earth.
In a previous article by Forbes, it is said: “If anyone could mine that asteroid, the resulting riches would collapse the paltry Earth economy of around $74 trillion.”
The mission is being led by Arizona State University, while NASA’s JPL is responsible for mission management, operations and navigation.
It was supposed to launch in August 2022 and was set to arrive on the asteroid in 2026.
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However, due to technical difficulties and software issues, NASA missed its launch window.
After an internal review on whether the space agency could overcome these issues in order to successfully launch in 2023, they confirmed that the mission will go ahead as early no earlier than October 2023.
JPL Director Laurie Leshin expressed how she was ‘extremely proud’ of her team.
She stated: “During this review, they have demonstrated significant progress already made toward the future launch date.
“I am confident in the plan moving forward and excited by the unique and important science this mission will return.”
Due to the new launch date, the Psyche spacecraft will arrive at the asteroid in August 2029 instead of the original date of 2026.
The Psyche mission will be part of NASA’s Discovery Program, which will consist of low-cost robotic space exploration.
Most asteroids are rocky or icy, but since Psyche is speculated to be the exposed metallic heart of a dead planet, it’s hoped that the study set to place will help provide insights into our understanding of planet Earth’s core.
Also part of the mission is NASA’s Deep Space Optical Communications tech demo, which will test high-data-rate laser ‘space broadband’.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) website explains that the asteroid is different from others as it appears to be ‘the exposed nickel-iron core of an early planet’, which happens to be one of ‘building blocks’ of our solar system.
The site continues: “Deep within rocky, terrestrial planets – including Earth – scientists infer the presence of metallic cores, but these lie unreachably far below the planets’ rocky mantles and crusts.”
“Because we cannot see or measure Earth’s core directly, Psyche offers a unique window into the violent history of collisions and accretion that created terrestrial planets.”
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