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Riled Up is a journal of science, the environment, exploration, new technology, and related commentary.  Contributors include scientists, explorers, engineers, and others who provide perspectives and context not typically offered in general news circulation.  For interested readers, additional resources are included.

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Hugh Bollinger



                                     Psyche mission animation (credit: JPL)

NASA's Psyche probe was successfully launched. Psyche is heading to investigate an asteroid in the belt of debris left behind at the beginning of the solar system. According to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California the mission's goal is to understand a unique remnant from 4.6 billion years ago that appears to considt of solid metal.

Ground-based observations suggest Psyche is an object about 1/16th the diameter of the Moon. It may represent an nickel-iron core of a shattered planetesimal, the initial building block of a planet, which did not continue to evolve into a fully-formed world. Psyche offers a chance to view the interior of planets like Earth, Venus, or Mars that lay hidden beneath their layers of mantle and crust. Investigating Psyche may provide information not only to better understand the Earth’s core, but also its composition and how it was created. If successful, the probe will study this unexplored planetary building block; to view a new type of solar system object; and to understand what is inside terrestrial planets by directly examining the core of one of these original objects.

SpaceX, the private rocket launching company, executed a flawless a series of maneuvers to position the Psyche probe on its 6-year trajectory to this strange asteroid. A NASA video showcased the launch events to illustrate how precise steps required for success of their $960 billion mission.

The popular SciFi drama The Expanse envisioned a future when a metal-rich asteroid might be minded for its valuable materials, many of which are utilized in renewable energy production and digital devices, and supplied back to Earth. Psyche is the first mission of its kind to understand the structure and composition of such distant solar system objects. Psyched, to be excited with anticipation, is a fine adjective to describe this new space adventure. WHB

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