A second mission was created to explore the mysterious Trojan asteroids of Jupiter. The space agency announced this on Wednesday.
NASA started the year by creating a flight plan to visit a group of asteroids, including the all-metal world, which is believed to be a remnant of the planet’s core destroyed during the difficult early years of the Solar System.
The metal asteroid (Psyche) will take the same-name spacecraft approximately in 2023. It is located about three times farther from the Sun than the Earth, and its diameter is about 130 miles. Unlike other rocky or icy asteroids, Psyche is entirely made up of iron-nickel metal, resembling the earth's core.
Scientists suspect that Psyche may have started its “life” the size of Mars, but then lost the outer rock layers after being hit by other asteroids and mini-planets billions of years ago.
“Humanity has visited rocky, icy and gas worlds. But we never saw metal, ”says planetary geologist Lindy Elkins-Talton of Arizona State University at a pace.
The mission was one of two selected NASA on Wednesday for funding under the Discovery program. Its cost cost $ 450 million, not including launch costs. The second mission is called Lucy (Lucy). It will take its place behind Psyche in the main asteroid belt, being located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter and a group of asteroids fixed in the orbit of Jupiter. These bodies are called Trojans and they have never been visited by a space probe.
Lucy’s mission was named after the 3.2-year-old skeletal remains of a woman, discovered in 1974.
“Small bodies are really fossils from the formation of the planet. That's why we called the object “Lucy” after the human ancestor, ”said Levinson, a leading researcher at the Southwestern Research Institute in the State of Colorado.
“The main aspect of these objects is their diversity. If we observe them through telescopes, we see that they differ greatly in color. Detailed study will help to better understand the history of the formation and development of the Solar System, ”he added.
Lucy plan to launch in 2021. The vehicle must visit one main asteroid belt and six Trojans between 2025 and 2033.