Psyche Science

Psyche is the first mission to explore an asteroid with a surface that contains substantial amounts of metal rather than rock or ice. The mission will improve our knowledge of iron cores, a previously unexplored building block of planet formation. 

Learn More About the Mission
The Psyche spacecraft rides to space inside its faring on top of a rocket with two side boosters. The spacecraft faring and boosters are all white. Flames shoot out the bottom of the rocket stack, and clouds are beneath the flames.
NASA’s Psyche spacecraft, atop a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket, soars into the sky after lifting off from Kennedy Space Center’s historic Launch Complex 39A in Florida at 10:19 a.m. EDT on Friday, Oct. 13, 2023. The Psyche mission will study a metal-rich asteroid with the same name, located in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. This is NASA’s first mission to study an asteroid that has more metal than rock or ice. Riding with Psyche is a pioneering technology demonstration – NASA’s Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) experiment – which will be the first test of laser communications beyond the Moon.
Kevin O'Connell

Goals & Objectives

Mission Goals

  • Understand iron cores, a previously unexplored building block of planet formation
  • Look inside terrestrial planets, including Earth, by directly examining the interior of a differentiated (layered) body, which otherwise could not be seen
  • Explore a new type of world – a world made not of rock and ice, but metal

Science Objectives

  • Determine whether Psyche is a core, or if it is unmelted material
  • Determine the relative ages of regions of Psyche’s surface
  • Determine whether small metal bodies incorporate the same light elements as are expected in the Earth’s high-pressure core
  • Determine whether Psyche was formed under conditions more oxidizing, or more reducing than Earth’s core
  • Characterize Psyche’s topography

Arizona State University in Tempe leads the Psyche mission and is the home to the mission’s principal investigator, Lindy Elkins-Tanton. The mission’s deputy principal investigator is Ben Weiss from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is responsible for the mission’s overall management, system engineering, integration and testing, and operations. At JPL, the project manager is Henry Stone, the deputy project manager is Robert Mase, and the project scientist is Carol Polanskey.