Asteroid Psyche Mission: NASA Teams Up With Bloomsburg Professor

First Posted: Feb 17, 2017 05:16 AM EST

NASA wants to visit a metal world, an enormous asteroid called 16 Psyche, which was formed by a massive collision in space. The curiosity of the American space agency was piqued by the unique asteroid that is comprised of materials similar to what constitutes the Earth’s core. Subsequently, it wanted to launch a mission to the celestial object. Now, NASA has reportedly teamed up with Pennsylvania's Bloomsburg University professor, Michael Shepard, whose résumé will help the agency to work on the mission.

According to The Daily Item report, Michael Shepard has built a 3D model of the asteroid 16 Psyche with the help of a specialized radar telescope at Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory. Now the asteroid model created by the professor is being used by NASA to help in its mission. "It was just selected as a mission target," Professor Shepard said. "The mission is very interested in having a shape model, a 3D model for planning purposes."

Incidentally, Psyche is about a third the size of Pennsylvania. Unlike many other asteroids, it is not made of ice or stone but mostly metal. According to Prof. Shepard, there could be a possibility that the asteroid is actually the core of an ancient planet. However, the suspicion cannot be confirmed at the moment because humans still do not know what cores actually look like and have never actually seen the core of the Earth. Therefore, a mission to Psyche gives the chance to observe a core upclose in real.

Currently, the Psyche mission is still in its planning stage. A tentative launch is being planned for 2023. If all goes according to plan, an unmanned robotic spacecraft will reach the asteroid in 2030, in the process flying by Mars in 2025. Psyche is located between Mars and Jupiter. According to NASA, the Psyche mission will enable humans to understand how planets and other bodies separated into their layers, like crusts, mantles and cores, during their evolution.

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