NASA’s Psyche mission will investigate the properties of a unique metallic asteroid residing between Mars and Jupiter as it orbits the Sun. It’s believed that Psyche could be the nickel-iron core of a planet that failed planet from early in the solar system, and so it provides lots of opportunities to learn more about how worlds like this come to be.
Impact experiments conducted as NASA’s Ames Vertical Gun Range have shown that metallic asteroids like Psyche exhibit particularly interesting surface impacts. Unlike rocky worlds, which exhibit craters with flat ridges, metallic worlds such as Psyche exhibit craters with flappy ridges, and this is purportedly a result of the harder material.
By visiting and exploring Psyche, we can learn whether the world is actually the core of a failed planet or if it’s un-melted material. Perhaps more importantly, scientific instruments could tell us the age of the surface and identify the topographic composition of the world as a whole.
Psyche promises to be a game changer as we continue to explore the solar system around us.