December 7, 2021

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The Psyche Mission: Visiting a metal asteroid

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Psyche is a NASA mission expected to launch in 2022 that will explore a 140-mile-wide (225 kilometers) metallic asteroid called 16 Psyche. No spacecraft has ever visited an object like 16 Psyche, which is thought to be the exposed core of a demolished planet. The mission is expected to provide important insights into planetary formation. 

Along with a mission called Lucy that will visit primordial asteroids near Jupiter, Psyche was approved in January 2017 as part of NASA’s Discovery program. “This is what Discovery Program missions are all about — boldly going to places we’ve never been to enable groundbreaking science,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C., said in a statement at the time.

Related: NASA’s getting ready to explore the corpse of an ancient planet in the asteroid belt

An artist's depiction of the metal-rich asteroid Psyche, which a NASA spacecraft will visit later this decade.

An artist’s depiction of the metal-rich asteroid Psyche. (Image credit: Maxar/ASU/P. Rubin/NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Psyche: the metal asteroid

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