This week’s StarTalk podcast with Neil deGrasse Tyson included an interview with former Deputy Administrator of NASA, Lori Garver. She is author of a new book, Escaping Gravity: My Quest to Transform NASA and Launch a New Space Age, which has a number of reviewer quotes, including the one from Elon Musk below.
In addition to the dialog about her time with NASA and the growing role of commercial space providers, the dialogue also gets into specific projects, including potential plans to mine asteroids. One asteroid in particular, Psyche (located in the asteroid belt), was cited as an asteroid of special interest because it contains what some believe to be the core of a failed planet, which means plenty of expensive metals.
NASA currently has plans to launch a spacecraft later this year to visit Psyche. The objectives are to:
- Determine whether Psyche is a core, or if it is unmelted material.
- Determine the relative ages of regions of Psyche’s surface.
- Determine whether small metal bodies incorporate the same light elements as are expected in the Earth’s high-pressure core.
- Determine whether Psyche was formed under conditions more oxidizing or more reducing than Earth’s core.
- Characterize Psyche’s topography.
I recommend you listen to the full podcast story and also stayed tuned for the upcoming asteroid adventure.
Update: The Psyche mission has been delayed. NASA noted:
Due to the late delivery of the spacecraft’s flight software and testing equipment, NASA does not have sufficient time to complete the testing needed ahead of its remaining launch period this year, which ends on Oct. 11.
A launch is possible as early as next year, but NASA is now going over all the options.