Nasa mission to fly metal-rich asteroid to probe genesis

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Nasa mission to fly metal-rich asteroid to probe genesis. In an attempt to study the origins and evolution of a metal-rich asteroid, the US space agency Nasa and Elon Musk’s aerospace company are preparing to send a telescope to the celestial rock that was unaware of its origins and evolution, calling it an entirely new phenomenon.

A small planet could be the source of the space rock, according to astronomers.

Psyche is an object 2.2 billion miles (3.5 billion kilometers) away that could provide insights into planets like Earth’s interior. The probe will launch Friday.

We have visited worlds made of rock, ice, and gas… but this will be our first time visiting a world with a metal surface,” lead scientist Lindy Elkins-Tanton told reporters this week.

Nasa mission to fly metal-rich asteroid to probe genesis. NASA and Elon Musk’s company scheduled the flight for Friday at 10:19am Eastern Time, with a backup window on Saturday in case of bad weather.

A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket with the Psyche spacecraft sits on launch pad 39A at Nasa's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida,

In July 2029, the van-sized mission will arrive in the Asteroid Belt, between Mars and Jupiter, with a blue glow from its next-generation electric propulsion system.

Metal asteroid to be studied

It will deploy its suite of advanced instruments over the next two years to study Psyche’s minerals and topography, as well as look for evidence of a magnetic field dating back thousands of years.

A planetesimal, a building block that all rocky planets are made of, could contain Psyche, named after the Greek goddess of the soul.

Another possibility is that it’s a remnant of an iron-rich, primordial solar system object that has not yet been identified.

Elkins-Tanton said this is the only way to see a core. We say tongue-in-cheek that we will explore outer space in order to understand inner space.

At its widest point, Psyche measures 173 miles (280 kilometres) across, but it has never been seen up close.

In the past, scientists assumed it was overwhelmingly made up of metal, but now analysis based on reflected radar and light suggests it contains between 30-60% metal and the remainder rock.

Communication network testing

Several technological innovations will be included in the mission.

With Psyche, Nasa will test next-generation communications based on lasers, rather than radio waves – a step equivalent to upgrading old telephone lines on Earth to fibre optics.

It is designed to provide 10 to 100 times the data-return capacity of today’s state-of-the-art radio systems, said Abi Biswas of Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Psyche also uses a special propulsion system called “Hall-effect thrusters” that generate electric and magnetic fields that expel charged atoms of xenon gas as it travels.

An AA battery in your hand exerts about the same amount of thrust. However, in space, the spacecraft will accelerate continuously to tens of thousands of miles per hour.

Psyche will be the first mission to use such systems beyond lunar orbit, avoiding the need to carry thousands of pounds of chemical fuel into space.

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