It sounds like something straight from the plot of Austin Powers, but NASA really is following an asteroid worth ten thousand QUADRILLION dollars.
NASA is redoubling its efforts to reach the hurtling chunk of rock presumably in order to beat Dr Evil to it. Instead of a 2023 liftoff, they are now targeting 2022. It’s made of Fe and Ni – that’s Iron and Nickel for the uninitiated and there is enough of it to send the world economy into a tailspin. It’s called Psyche 16.
No Earth assist, straight to Mars assist, and especially beautiful curve directly to Psyche thereafter, w/thrust tangential to trajectory.
— Lindy Elkins-Tanton (@ltelkins) May 25, 2017
The accelerated schedule is thanks to a better launch trajectory. This means it needs more power so the NASA chop shop has souped up its solar panels to allow it to fang through the void to its destination somewhere between Mars and Jupiter.
Even so, it will take around three and half years to get there and then spend a year and a bit orbiting and mapping the asteroid. It has a fully iron core (there’s probably a Chuck Norris gag in that somewhere) which will be the first of its kind explored by humans. Unlike earth, which is basically made up of rocks and water in various forms, Psyche 16 is composed completely of pure sweet sweet metal.
Sci-fi buffs will be salivating at the prospect of outer space mining and untold riches but it seems as though that’s a way off. Even though the rocket men are trying to get to the meteor, there is next to nil chance of bringing it back. The spacecraft will be equipped with all sorts of gadgetry. Instruments include an x-band Gravity Science investigator, a multispectral imager and a magnetometer.
The goal is to try and ascertain how the thing was formed and compare it to the stuff we get back here on earth. It may provide clues to the origin of the universe and therefore…the meaning of life.