NASA has revealed the schedule for a rocket launch that will visit an asteroid that is valued at 70,000 times the global economy.
The US space agency will launch a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket holding sensitive scientific equipment in October 2023 from Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.
NASA’s website says that the rocket will travel for around three and a half years before it gets to the Psyche asteroid, which the programme is named after.
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It will then spend 21 months observing the massive asteroid, which NASA hopes will allow it to understand more about its structure and history.
The asteroid Psyche was discovered by Italian scientist Annibale de Gasparis in 1852, and was named after the Greek goddess.
It is one of the largest asteroids in our solar system with an average diameter of 220 kilometres.
The asteroid alone makes up 1% of the mass of our galaxy’s asteroid belt, a collection of asteroids that orbit the sun between Mars and Jupiter.
The belt is made up of between 1.1 and 1.9 million asteroids larger than 1 kilometre, along with millions more smaller asteroids.
Psyche is believed to be made up mostly of iron and nickel, differing from other asteroids that are largely made up of rocks and ice, which indicated it could be the leftover core of a protoplanet that tried to form billions of years ago.
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Its size and makeup gives it an estimated worth of $10 quintillion, more than 70,000 times the current worth of the entire global economy.
The Psyche programme will also be used to test out new deep space communications technology, which NASA says could be used to transmit information across space more efficiently than current technology allows for.
The launch of the rocket was delayed for a year for what NASA described as “critical testing”.
The contract for the launch, which was won by Elon Musk’s SpaceX in 2020, is valued at $117 million (£94m) dollars.
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