NASA recently announced it’s latest endeavor: Explore a giant metal asteroid the size of Massachusetts.
Made up of mostly nickel and iron, the giant hunk of space metal is about three times further away from the Sun than Earth.
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Enticingly, the mission’s lead scientist has put a price tag of $10,000 quadrillion on the asteroid, known as “16 Psyche.”
But NASA isn’t there to pad it’s budget for the fiscal year. Instead, it will study the possibility of Psyche being a “protoplanet,” or the exposed core of an early planet.
Scientists believe Psyche may have once been a planet the size of Mars, but after a number of massive collisions, its outer layers were stripped away, leaving only the metal asteroid we know it as today.
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“This is an opportunity to explore a new type of world – not one of rock or ice, but of metal,” said Psyche Principal Investigator Lindy Elkins-Tanton of Arizona State University in Tempe in a news release. “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.”
By studying Psyche, astronomers hope to understand the building blocks of planet formation. NASA plans to launch a robotic mission to the metal world in October of 2023 and arrive in 2030.
Click through above to see what architects think Mars’ first settlements will look like.
Check out the video above to see NASA’s other mind-blowing asteroid mission.