NASA Wants to Send a Mission to Psyche, the Asteroid That Consists of Gold

The American space program NASA wants to launch a mission to a striking asteroid in our solar system next year. It would mainly consist of iron, nickel and gold and therefore have enormous value for us on Earth.

NASA will send a rocket to the Psyche asteroid, after all. That launch was planned between August and October of this year, but due to software problems, it had to be cancelled. An independent investigation was launched to see if the mission would still occur. That research has not yet been completed, but NASA has concluded: In October 2023, SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket will launch the Psyche spacecraft.

Good news for all astronomers in the world because Psyche is one of the most intriguing objects in our solar system. Psyche is an asteroid 225 kilometres wide and located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. It is striking that this asteroid consists mainly of iron, nickel and gold. This composition can be compared to our Earth’s core. Researchers, therefore, think that it may be the uncovered core of an ancient protoplanet. Psyche may have started as a planet, but during the formation of our solar system, it may have been badly hit by impacts, causing the rocky layers to disappear.

Lindy Elkins-Tanton, the principal investigator of the Psyche mission, calculated several years ago that the iron alone would be worth $10,000 trillion, or a 1 followed by 15 zeros. “Even if we could grab a big piece of metal and drag it here…what would you do? Could you hide it and control the global resource – like diamonds are controlled by companies – and protect your market? What if you decided to bring it here and solve humanity’s metal problem forever? This is, of course, wild speculation,” she said at the time. Elkins-Tanton clarified that NASA has no plans to bring the asteroid here. The technology for that does not exist at all. But investigating Psyche further is a unique opportunity, say the researchers.

The delay of the launch brings with it some other elements. If the rocket had taken to the sky this year, it would have reached the asteroid by early 2026. But by postponing the launch to 2023, the rocket must follow a different trajectory. And as a result, the arrival at the asteroid is scheduled for August 2029, NASA says. And the costs are also rising sharply due to the delay.

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