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posted by martyb on Thursday May 25 2017, @01:37PM   Printer-friendly
from the I-feel-good-about-this dept.

NASA's mission to the asteroid 16 Psyche has been moved forward by one year:

"We challenged the mission design team to explore if an earlier launch date could provide a more efficient trajectory to the asteroid Psyche, and they came through in a big way," said Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "This will enable us to fulfill our science objectives sooner and at a reduced cost."

The Discovery program announcement of opportunity had directed teams to propose missions for launch in either 2021 or 2023. The Lucy mission was selected for the first launch opportunity in 2021, and Psyche was to follow in 2023. Shortly after selection in January, NASA gave the direction to the Psyche team to research earlier opportunities.

"The biggest advantage is the excellent trajectory, which gets us there about twice as fast and is more cost effective," said Principal Investigator Lindy Elkins-Tanton of Arizona State University in Tempe. "We are all extremely excited that NASA was able to accommodate this earlier launch date. The world will see this amazing metal world so much sooner."

The revised trajectory is more efficient, as it eliminates the need for an Earth gravity assist, which ultimately shortens the cruise time. In addition, the new trajectory stays farther from the sun, reducing the amount of heat protection needed for the spacecraft. The trajectory will still include a Mars gravity assist in 2023.

Now I'm psyched.

Previously: NASA Selects Two Missions to Visit Asteroids


Original Submission

Related Stories

NASA Selects Two Missions to Visit Asteroids 1 comment

NASA has selected two new missions to explore asteroids. One mission will visit several Jupiter trojans, while the other will visit 16 Psyche, the most massive metallic M-type asteroid and the eleventh most massive asteroid known:

NASA has selected two missions that have the potential to open new windows on one of the earliest eras in the history of our solar system – a time less than 10 million years after the birth of our sun. The missions, known as Lucy and Psyche, were chosen from five finalists and will proceed to mission formulation, with the goal of launching in 2021 and 2023, respectively.

[...] Lucy, a robotic spacecraft, is scheduled to launch in October 2021. It's slated to arrive at its first destination, a main belt asteroid, in 2025. From 2027 to 2033, Lucy will explore six Jupiter Trojan asteroids. These asteroids are trapped by Jupiter's gravity in two swarms that share the planet's orbit, one leading and one trailing Jupiter in its 12-year circuit around the sun. The Trojans are thought to be relics of a much earlier era in the history of the solar system, and may have formed far beyond Jupiter's current orbit.

[...] The Psyche mission will explore one of the most intriguing targets in the main asteroid belt – a giant metal asteroid, known as 16 Psyche, about three times farther away from the sun than is the Earth. This asteroid measures about 130 miles (210 kilometers) in diameter and, unlike most other asteroids that are rocky or icy bodies, is thought to be comprised mostly of metallic iron and nickel, similar to Earth's core. Scientists wonder whether Psyche could be an exposed core of an early planet that could have been as large as Mars, but which lost its rocky outer layers due to a number of violent collisions billions of years ago.

The budgets for Discovery Program class missions are capped at $450 million.


Original Submission

Asteroid Mining Could Begin in 10-20 Years 47 comments

One expert... in the field of asteroid mining, has predicted that asteroid mining could begin in 10-20 years:

"Asteroid mining on a regular basis, such as terrestrial mining takes place today, with an established industry and an ecosystem of supporting services businesses for the mining companies, could start anywhere from 20 to 50 years is my personal opinion. But any industry must start somewhere, and I think we will see the first asteroid being mined 10 to 20 years from now, at which point the surrounding ecosystem will begin to grow," [J.L.] Galache said.

However, in order to successfully start asteroid mining, a few obstacles must first be overcome. One of these is insufficient knowledge about certain types of asteroids. Although our understanding of asteroids as a whole is advanced enough, gaining a better understanding of the nature of various types of near-Earth objects could be a critical factor in terms of success. Galache underlined that mining techniques will have to be tailored to specific types of asteroids. "For example, you will not send the same equipment to mine an iron-nickel asteroid as you would a carbonaceous asteroid, and you will not send the same equipment to mine a fine regolith-covered asteroid as a rubble pile. I do believe we have figured out what all the unknowns are and it is just a matter of finding answers and solutions to those unknowns," he noted.

NASA's Psyche mission will visit 16 Psyche, the most massive metallic M-type asteroid in the asteroid belt.


Original Submission

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  • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Thursday May 25 2017, @02:18PM

    by kaszz (4211) on Thursday May 25 2017, @02:18PM (#515467) Journal

    Location:
    Psyche, an asteroid orbiting the sun between Mars and Jupiter. Rocket launch in 2022, arrival in 2026.

    Questions mission will answer:
    The mission team seeks to determine whether Psyche is the core of an early planet, how old it is, whether it formed in similar ways to Earth's core, and what its surface is like.

    Instruments that will be used:
    The spacecraft's instrument payload will include magnetometers, multispectral imagers, and a gamma ray and neutron spectrometer. To study topography, surface features, gravity, and magnetism.

    Will it run NetBSD? ;)

    (another interesting mission: Lucy [nasa.gov] to explore a trail of asteroids in Jupiters orbit)

  • (Score: 1) by kurenai.tsubasa on Thursday May 25 2017, @05:15PM (2 children)

    by kurenai.tsubasa (5227) on Thursday May 25 2017, @05:15PM (#515557) Journal

    “Metal Asteroid Psyche” sounded like it should be a film in the style of Heavy Metal [wikipedia.org], perhaps a stylized retelling of the myth.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 25 2017, @06:19PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 25 2017, @06:19PM (#515593)

      The last fragment of a once-living planet,
      its body blasted into dust
      by the madness of its own inhabitants,
      while its head was cursed to roam aimlessly through time and space,
      screaming in pain and sorrow.
      In legend and in fact, it is known as:
      Metal Hurlant. [wikipedia.org]

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 25 2017, @06:23PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 25 2017, @06:23PM (#515597)

        FWIW, Metal Hurlant Chronicles was rather unfairly ignored when it came out in 2014. If you overlooked it then, as I did, you should probably track down a copy online.
        While it's far from great, it's IMO definitely worth watching, if you like that sort of thing at all.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 26 2017, @12:28PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 26 2017, @12:28PM (#515928)

    "Move up" means it will occur earlier. Push forward means it will occur later.

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