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NASA Launching Unmanned Craft to Explore Metal Asteroid

An object traveling just above half the speed of sound. Sounds intimidating? Not for NASA, intend to launch an unmanned spacecraft into space to investigate an object which is made up of an unknown metal. NASA hopes to gain new insight from the asteroid in regards to Earth and its history.

The object is conjectured to have been previously located at the center of a now non-existent planet as the metal core of the planet. NASA hopes to gain valuable insight into the core of Earth by studying this object, believed to have a similar composition to Earth. Even if NASA discovers that their conjecture is incorrect, a secondary theory remains an exciting possibility. That theory states that it formed in the proximity of the sun when the heat burned away the materials until the iron atoms formed into a solid metal state. A further explanation, as a third possibility, is that it is a grouping of materials forming a natural model of our archaic solar system. This knowledge will provide valuable information to the scientific community regarding the origin of the world we live in today.

Information is not the only thing we are gaining from this project. This project will be the first to utilize Hall Effect thrusters in space, an innovative propulsion system that utilizes the ionization of xenon gas, which is often seen in science-fiction movies such as Star Wars. The process of ionization specifically involves changing the number of electrons in an atom by one or two which then forms an electric field capable in this particular circumstance of generating enough forward thrust to travel at the speed of 32,400 MPH in space. Fun fact, xenon gas is additionally used to make sure that car headlights work.

To complete its task, the project is equipped with numerous tools to take measurements from a variety of sources. A gamma-ray neutron spectrometer is equipped that can determine what elements are present in the asteroid. Two magnetometers will determine the magnetic field of the asteroid. Additionally, the project will house a multispectral imager that will catalog wavelengths of light for NASA. These numerous instruments will allow us to collect valuable pieces of information regarding this mysterious asteroid.

Overall, this mission will offer us unprecedented access to a unique space body. That allows us a glimpse into a unique piece of the past that we have not yet been able to view. This mission should excite those interested in science and intrigue those interested in space engineering as NASA looks to expand our knowledge of the world as we know it and expand our technology into the world of Hollywood films.

[Source: Space.com]

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