Falcon Heavy Launch to 16 Psyche

That’s right, we have a new Falcon Heavy launch to look forward to. SpaceX signed an agreement last week for their first NASA mission, this time to the metallic asteroid and potential proto-planet core called 16 Psyche.

Here on Earth there are many elements that have sunk to the core of the planet where we can’t get to them. NASA and scientists think that Psyche, a near Earth asteroid, used to be the core of an actual planet before that planet was destroyed by a violent impact from which only the core survived. Aside from the scientific value of a close examination of such a body, there is the potential of this rock having a value $700 Quintilian ($700,000,000,000,000,000,000) worth of rare elements like gold.

The spacecraft will not attempt to gather any booty from Psyche, such would be outside the scope of its mission. However, the fact that a cheap rocket like Falcon Heavy can send probes there opens the door of someone else landing something on the asteroid that can send material back. The NASA Psyche mission will map the surface, which could frankly provide support for someone who wants to plan such a mission. The probe will take pictures, for those of us who are only smart enough to appreciate the visuals and maps. The rest of you will get to geek out at the data sent back by the magnetometer and the gamma ray spectrometer. That spectrometer will also tell folks where to find the treasure.

The cost of any such mission would of course be prohibitive as far as simple astroid mining…at least today. Psyche is very far away, and that category of space travel is still not even close to routine enough to be convenient. I would expect that whoever works on the Psyche mission for NASA will have folks knocking on their doors later to build commercial spacecraft and landers capable of exploring the profitability of mining Pyche.

As of now (3/10/2020), Falcon Heavy has flown three missions and has several others on it’s flight manifest. After it’s maiden voyage in which it tossed an early model Tesla Roadster (ya…a car) out to an elliptical orbit between near-Earth and almost the astroid belt, it launched an Arabsat communications satellite and flew a demonstration mission for the U.S. Air Force. Future flights include some more stuff for the USAF as well as a ViaSat-3 Satellite.

~ by Bill Housley on March 10, 2020.

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