NASA gearing up for historic mission to a new world made of metal

NASA’s next mission will take us to a brand new world – a world made of metal. 

The Psyche mission is set to lift off from the Kennedy Space Center at 10:16 a.m. Thursday.

Researchers will never be able to go inside earth and visit the core, but scientists think the Psyche asteroid has similar characteristics they can learn from.  

"We’ve been to icy worlds. We’ve been to gas giants. We’ve been to rocky worlds. We have never been to a world that is primarily made of metal. Can you believe that? I mean, you’re going to see something for the very first time," said Noah Warner, the payload system manager for the mission. 

Psyche sits in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Soon, scientists will see what it’s made of up close which has never been done before.

"Psyche is kind of the bridge between these iron meteorites that we can measure on the earth, the unknown of what’s in the earth’s core and what is the similarity between Psyche and these iron meteorites," said Carol Polanskey, a project scientist for the mission. Her role focuses on the architecture of the spacecraft and ensuring its design suited the payload. 

The meteorite scientists want to study will research is 2.5 billion miles away from earth, so the spacecraft won’t reach its final destination until 2029. During the journey, scientists are still working. 

"All of the engineers have to check out all of the systems, and the planners have to make sure that we’re prepared to start commanding the spacecraft as soon as it launches," Polanskey added. 


Once the spacecraft arrives at the 140-mile wide asteroid, the research begins. They’ve separated their study into four categories based on altitude. Scientists have several instruments on board to decipher what makes up the asteroid and its surroundings. 

"We’ve got this amazing instrument called the gamma ray and neutron spectrometer which from a very far distance, like 40 miles, we can actually tell what the elemental composition is of the body," concluded Warner. 

On Tuesday, scientists were concerned about weather. It’s something they’re watching closely before launch day on Thursday.