Los Alamos scientists help NASA with asteroid mission | KOB 4
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Los Alamos scientists help NASA with asteroid mission

KOB Web Staff
Updated: August 28, 2020 01:54 PM
Created: August 28, 2020 01:21 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A simulation created at Los Alamos National Laboratory could help NASA on a mission to an asteroid – an asteroid that could hold a lot of answers to how our solar system formed. 

Scientists know the center of the earth, or the core, is made of metal. But, there's no way to get down there to study it. 

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"It's too hot, the pressure's too high," said Jim Bell with Arizona State University. "Our instruments would melt. Can't drill a hole that deep into the earth." 

However, scientists can study a metal core out in space. That's where the asteroid Psyche comes in. It orbits between Mars and Jupiter and is about 120 miles across – or about the size of Massachusetts. Scientists believe it was formed during the early years of our solar system. 

"Because it's thought to be mostly metallic that tells us it very well could've been part of a planet that got blown apart before it got formed completely," said Wendy Caldwell, a postdoctoral fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory. 

NASA is launching a mission to send a spacecraft to analyze Psyche, so scientists at Los Alamos are helping out. They found Psyche is mostly metallic and likely porous. 

"By studying Psyche, we might get a nice window into the past to see how our solar system formed and how planets in our solar system formed," Caldwell said. 

The mission to visit Psyche won't launch until August 2022. The spacecraft is expected to reach Psyche in early 2026. 


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