Ben Weiss on the Mission to Psyche

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The asteroid Psyche is probably the most metal-rich body we have discovered. There are two, quite different, theories as to how it may have formed: Either it formed that way, or it originally had a more typical composition, but its rocky outer portion was blasted off during a major collision. To help determine which is most likely, NASA is sending a space probe there, to be launched on August 1, 2022. And if we can unravel the history of Psyche, we will also learn how other planets may have formed, since both the asteroids and the planets are thought to have been assembled from the same population of planetesimals – the small bodies that first formed out of the solar nebula. We might also learn about the Earth's own metallic core, since, according to the second theory, Psyche may be a naked core.

Ben Weiss is Deputy Principal Investigator and Magnetometry Investigation Lead on the Psyche mission. He is a Professor of Planetary Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His research focuses on the formation, evolution, and history of the terrestrial planets and small bodies. He is especially interested in paleomagnetism and geomagnetism. In the podcast, he explains the various formation scenarios for Psyche. He then describes the various instruments on board the spacecraft and what we will be able to infer from the measurements they will make when orbiting the asteroid.

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