In October 2023, NASA launched its long-awaited on-again, off-again Psyche mission. The spacecraft is on its way to study the metal-rich asteroid 16-Psyche, an M-type asteroid that could be the remnant core of a planetesimal that suffered a collision long ago. But understanding the giant, metal-rich asteroid isn’t the Psyche mission’s only goal.
It’s also testing a new laser communication technology.
On October 13th, at 10:19 AM Eastern (07:19 AM Pacific), NASA’s Psyche mission successfully launched atop a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket from Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This spacecraft is now on its way to rendezvous with the M-type asteroid of the same name, an object in the Main Asteroid Belt almost entirely composed of metal. This metallic asteroid is thought to be the remnant of a planetoid that lost its outer layers, leaving behind a core of iron-nickel and precious metals. By studying this object, scientists hope to learn more about the formation of rocky planets.