We have liftoff!
NASA’s Psyche spacecraft, along with the agency’s DSOC (Deep Space Optical Communications) technology demonstration, launched from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 10:19 a.m. EDT.
This will be the first interplanetary mission for SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy. This is also the Falcon Heavy’s first science mission for NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at Kennedy
As Statista’s Martin Armstrong reports, taking a total of six years, Psyche is destined for a metal-rich asteroid of the same name, where for two further years it will be “orbiting the asteroid to take pictures, map the surface, and collect data to determine Psyche’s composition”.
It is suspected that the asteroid, roughly 280km at its widest point, is part or all of the iron-rich core of a ‘planetesimal’ – the building block of a rocky planet. Scientists hope Psyche can show us how Earth’s core and the cores of the other terrestrial planets came to be.
Aside from the great scientific value of metal-rich asteroids, they can also have colossal as-yet untapped economic value, too.
In the asteroid belt that lies between Mars and Jupiter, there is an almost unfathomable amount of resources waiting to be utilized. According to Wired and Valerio Pellegrini, the asteroid ‘Davida’, which has a diameter of 326 kilometers, has been identified as the most valuable asteroid in the belt, with a resource value estimated to be some 27 quintillion (26,990,000,000,000,000,000) U.S. dollars.
It is a carbonaceous chondrite asteroid, and contains water, nickel, iron, cobalt, nitrogen, ammonia, and hydrogen.
As Statista’s dossier on space mining reports:
The market value of these activities is forecast to reach to 3.9 billion U.S. dollars by 2025.