NASA is planning to launch a new robotic mission to explore a giant metal asteroid, one of the most intriguing targets in the main asteroid belt, known as “16 Psyche.”
Led by researchers at Arizona State University, the team plans to send an unmanned spacecraft in October of 2023 to orbit the asteroid – an asteroid roughly the size of Massachusetts, made of iron and other precious metals.
The mission’s leader at Arizona State estimates that the iron alone on today’s market would be worth $10,000 quadrillion — that’s a one followed by 19 zeroes.
The mission will help scientists understand how planets and other bodies separated into their layers – including cores, mantles and crusts – early in their histories.
This is an opportunity to explore a new type of world — not one of rock or ice, but of metal,” Lindy Elkins-Tanton, Psyche’s principal investigator said in a statement. “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.”
16 Psyche, named after the ancient Greek goddess of the soul, is located in the large asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.