Asteroid 16 Psyche is estimated to be worth $10,000 quadrillion. The asteroid was originally discovered by Italian astronomer Annibale de Gasparis in 1852 and has been a target of observations since. NASA planned to launch its Psyche mission in 2022, and mission construction on it was going well in 2021. Unfortunately, things hit a kink, and the mission was delayed. Now, NASA has finally revealed when Psyche will launch.
According to a post by NASA, the Psyche mission has just 30 days left before its launch window opens. The mission will lift off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida between October 5 and October 25, and so far, everything is going as planned.
NASA says the mission will see the spacecraft complete a 280-million-mile voyage to Psyche, which it will orbit for a total of 26 months. The mission path is so long that the Psyche mission isn’t expected to reach the asteroid until sometime in 2029.
This particular timetable isn’t that uncommon, especially given how long we’ve waited for NASA’s incoming OSIRIS-REx to complete. That mission launched in 2016 and is just now returning to Earth with samples from the asteroid Bennu.
This particular mission is critical, as the worth of the asteroid and its significance in being the first metal-rich world that NASA will visit—all of the previous worlds that NASA missions have traveled to have been made of rock or ice. The Psyche mission will be the first of its kind for the agency.
The origins of this intriguing asteroid aren’t entirely clear. Astronomers believe it may be the remnant core of an ancient planetesimal, a newly forming planet, which lost its outer rocky layers to violent collisions when our solar system was first forming. The asteroid measures 140 miles wide and orbits the Sun between Mars and Jupiter.
Astronomers believe the asteroid to be shaped similarly to a potato, making it the most expensive potato-shaped object humanity has ever discovered. Asteroids like 16 Psyche are part of why many have begun pushing for asteroid mining to pick up as a way to gather Earth-like metals instead of completely depleting our own planet’s resources.
Of course, the success of this mission’s long voyage will probably play a part in how other missions to the distant object go. At least we can rest easy knowing that NASA’s plans for Psyche are finally coming to fruition, and the spacecraft has just a few weeks to go before it sets off on its years-long journey.