ASU Will Lead Mission to Send Probe to Asteroid

This rendering shows 16 Psyche, the asteroid targeted by the upcoming Psyche mission. | Courtesy of Arizona State University

Arizona State University will play a leading role in sending an unmanned NASA probe to a distant asteroid in 2023, the space agency announced last week.

It's the first time ASU, based in Tempe, has been tapped to lead a major space mission, though ASU-designed instruments have been included on probes sent to the moon and Mars.

As The Arizona Republic reported, the Psyche mission will take more than four years to reach an asteroid known as 16 Psyche, which orbits the sun between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. The asteroid is about the size of Massachusetts, researchers say. The goal is to study the asteroid's all-metal core, which is similar to that of Earth, to understand how planets form.

ASU professor Lindy Elkins-Tanton will be the mission's principal investigator. She and her team of about 150 people plan to study the asteroid for about 20 months as the probe orbits and collects data, the Republic reported.

ASU also has an instrument aboard the OSIRIS-REx mission, which launched in September. That mission is being led by the University of Arizona in Tucson.

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