NASA to Use Unmanned Spacecraft to Study Asteroid Up Close


An illustration of the asteroid belt near Jupiter, from NASA

Jeff Vaughn, Staff News Repackager

NASA has recently started planning out a mission to send a spacecraft to a large asteroid that will pass near Earth. Scientists with the Agency want to investigate the asteroid to determine if it was once part of a planet, and if so, find out why that planet broke up into different pieces many years ago.

The asteroid is around 130 miles in diameter and supposedly lost its outer core from many collisions that might have occurred, according to scientists.

The asteroid is said to contain enough iron that the mineral worth would be approximately 10,000 quadrillion dollars on Earth.

The mission’s name is called Psyche, and  it isn’t the only mission that will be investigating an asteroid, there is another mission that will be looking into a few asteroids near Jupiter and that one is called Lucy.

Both of these missions, out of NASA’s three classification of their missions, are investigation missions and will be unmanned.  The investigations will be by using remote controlled robots to do the research, probably including some version of the “Robonaut” the Agency is having built.

Lucy will be the first mission to explore the “Trojan asteroids” that are around the planet Jupiter and is likely to launch with some new equipment like a thermal emission spectrometer.

Lucy isn’t expected to get to its destination after it is launched until the year 2025 and the Psyche mission isn’t scheduled to depart until October 2023 and would be expected to reach the asteroid in year 2030.

Psyche was originally found on March 17, 1852 by Annibale de Gasparis.

Some would like to find out what elements were developed by the cores of a planet and investigating these asteroids may be the only way, according to an investigator from Arizona State University.

Some would like to find out how the Trojan asteroids ever got caught by Jupiter’s orbit in the first place and where they might have formed and possibly when.

These missions just like many others from the past and to come, will help shed some light on the universe as we adventure further and further step by step and answer questions as well as create new ones for us to pursue.