Why is NASA sending a spacecraft to a metal world? - Linda T. Elkins-Tanton
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Only the 16th asteroid to be discovered, Psyche was found in 1852 by Italian astronomer Annibale de Gasparis, who named it for the goddess of the soul in ancient Greek mythology.
What is Psyche’s story? One scenario is that long ago, a protoplanet that had separated internally into a rocky mantle and iron core suffered violent impacts that stripped away its mantle, leaving only the metal core. Or is Psyche a survivor of some more unusual process not yet imagined? What can it tell us about how planets form and about what's inside of Earth, Mars, Venus, and Mercury? Watch this video about the Psyche mission to learn more.
The science goals of the Psyche Mission are to understand these building blocks of planet formation and to explore firsthand a wholly new and unexplored type of world. The mission team seeks to determine whether Psyche really is a protoplanetary core, how old it is, whether it formed in similar ways to the Earth’s core, and what its surface is like. To read an overview of the Psyche mission, check out this website.
The Psyche spacecraft will launch in 2022 and arrive at Psyche in 2026, orbiting the asteroid for almost two years. Every world explored so far by humans has a surface of ice, rock or gas. Psyche will be the first metal world ever explored! Check out this 3D print of the Psyche asteroid and artworks made by college students inspired by Psyche.
Don't forget to check out the book Earth, written by the educator and Jeffrey Jerome Cohen.
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