Cold, airless, lifeless chunks of rock floating through the vast expanse of space. This is the image that most people conjure up in their minds when they think about asteroids. However, there’s far more to these minor planets than might meet the eye. They’ve been instrumental in the formation of our solar system, our planet and even the course of the evolution of life itself. They may also one day become an essential source of resources for future generations.
Asteroids are important to humanity for a multitude of reasons, and the world’s space agencies are very much aware of this. Only last week, on January 4, 2017, NASA announced the selection of two missions to explore some of the 1.3-million plus known asteroids in the solar systems. Scheduled for launch in October, 2021, robotic spacecraft Lucy will explore six of the Trojan asteroids that share Jupiter’s orbit around the Sun, while Psyche will explore asteroid 16 Psyche in the asteroid belt.