Things to Know About NASA’s Asteroid-Exploring Psyche Mission

NASA's Psyche mission is set to investigate the metallic asteroid '16 Psyche', measuring 140 miles in width. The launch is planned for October 12 at 14:16 GMT atop a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

In addition to the Lucy mission, which launched on October 16, 2021, to explore primitive asteroids near Jupiter, Psyche was given the green light in January 2017 as part of NASA's Discovery Program.

According to Arizona State University, Psyche, the asteroid, was the 16th asteroid ever identified. It was first observed in 1852 by Italian astronomer Annibale de Gasparis, who named it after the ancient Greek goddess of the soul.

Based on a 2002 paper in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics, Psyche weighs approximately 440 billion pounds, equivalent to 0.03% of Earth's moon's mass, and ranks as the 11th most massive asteroid in the solar system.

In contrast to the majority of solar system objects, which consist primarily of rock, ice, or gas, Psyche, is predominantly metal. It comprises up to 95% nickel and iron, similar in composition to Earth's core.

NASA's Psyche probe, as per ASU, measures 25 meters in length and 7 meters in width when its solar panels are fully extended, akin to the size of a tennis court. The spacecraft's instrument-filled body is approximately the size of a golf cart.

The initial mission blueprint outlines a 21-month orbit around the Psyche asteroid, aimed at capturing pioneering images of this predominantly metallic body.