Skip to main content

Lights, camera … Psyche!

Principal Investigator Lindy Elkins-Tanton talks about the 1st ASU-led deep-space mission, set to launch Oct. 12 in Florida


A woman speaks while on camera, with two video cameras visible in the foreground
|
September 25, 2023

UPDATE, Oct. 11: NASA and SpaceX are standing down from the Oct. 12 launch of the agency’s Psyche mission due to unfavorable weather conditions. NASA and SpaceX are now targeting launch at 10:19 a.m. EDT Friday, Oct. 13, from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Editor's note: On Sept. 28, NASA announced that the Psyche launch is now targeted for Oct. 12.

Sometimes you have to travel far into the skies to understand what’s deep beneath your feet.

That’s one of the reasons Arizona State University is leading NASA’s Psyche mission — set to launch Oct. 5 — a nearly six-year journey to an asteroid of the same name. That metal-rich asteroid might just be the core of a planetesimal, a building block of an early planet. 

Deep within rocky, terrestrial planets — including Earth — scientists infer the presence of metallic cores. But these are far below the planets' rocky mantles and crusts. Psyche will offer a unique window into the process that created terrestrial planets, something we’ll never be able to do here on Earth.

Psyche is the first ASU-led deep-space NASA mission, and it’s scheduled to launch from Kennedy Space Center the morning of Oct. 5 aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. Launch is set for 10:38 a.m. Eastern/7:38 a.m. Arizona time; a NASA livestreamed pre-show will begin about an hour before launch. (Sign up here to watch the launch online.)

MORE: Psyche news

Lindy Elkins-Tanton, principal investigator of the Psyche mission and a Regents Professor in ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, took some time out of the busy lead-up to launch to talk about the mission and what they hope to discover about the asteroid orbiting the sun between Mars and Jupiter.

“We’re trying to learn about the origin of our rocky worlds like the Earth. How do you build a habitable planet that people can live on?” she said. “And one big ingredient is the metal core that’s in the middle of our planet. And it turns out, we are never, ever going to get to our core or the core of any other planet … but there’s this one body out there, Psyche. … It’s the only way humans are ever going to see that ingredient of planet building.

“We like to joke that we’re going to outer space to see inner space.”

Watch the rest of the interview in our video.

Top photo: Lindy Elkins-Tanton, principal investigator of the Psyche mission and ASU Regents Professor, is photographed during a video interview on the Tempe campus. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

More Science and technology

 

Illustration of a semiconductor being put together

Advanced packaging the next big thing in semiconductors — and no, we're not talking about boxes

Microchips are hot. The tiny bits of silicon are integral to 21st-century life because they power the smartphones we rely on, the cars we drive and the advanced weaponry that is the backbone of…

Four people sitting around a computer screen

Securing the wireless spectrum

The number of devices using wireless communications networks for telephone calls, texting, data and more has grown from 336 million in 2013 to 523 million in 2022, according to data from U.S.…

Illustrations showing game icons including a young girl, sunglasses, a t-shirt, water bottle and more

New interactive game educates children on heat safety

Ask A Biologist, a long-running K–12 educational outreach effort by the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University, has launched its latest interactive educational game, called "Beat the…