/ Modified oct 9, 2023 8:21 a.m.

Psyche asteroid mission ready to launch

The latest flight to a space rock will explore an asteroid with an exposed metallic core.

Previewing Psyche Illustration of Psyche spacecraft in orbit.

It's only been a few weeks since the OSIRIS-REx mission returned a sample from the asteroid Bennu to Earth. Now NASA plans to launch another robotic explorer toward an asteroid later this week. The long-delayed Psyche mission's goal is to orbit, photograph, and measure an object made mostly of exposed metal.

Researcher Thomas Prettyman with the Planetary Science Institute explains it's possible the space rock, called 16 Psyche, was hit by another asteroid when the solar system was being formed.

"There might have been collisions that removed its silicate outer layer revealing its metal core," he said.

The Psyche spacecraft is set for launch no earlier than Thursday. If everything goes as planned it will finally arrive at its destination in August of 2029.

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