Latest NASA mission focuses on metal analysis, magnetic fields
NASA is set to launch its Psyche spacecraft this morning from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, a new mission aiming to study a metal-rich asteroid believed to be the ancient core of a protoplanet. View the 10:15 am ET livestream here (weather permitting).
The 16 Psyche asteroid (see rendering), located over 2 billion miles from Earth in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, is composed primarily of iron and nickel rather than the ice or rock comprising most asteroids. Theorists speculate the 173-mile-wide, potato-shaped object is the core of an early-solar system planet that could provide more direct insights into the Earth's unobservable core.
The van-sized spacecraft will deploy highly efficient—where electromagnetic fields charge xenon ions to generate thrust—to reach the asteroid's orbit in 2029 and will spend 26 months capturing images, measuring magnetic fields, and more.