NASA Psyche Mission: Journey to a Metal World

♪It’s a shame, but living
in the city, very rarelydo you get to see stars. – I feel like I have a
new connection to themin a way that I
haven’t before. – If I’m out in the
desert and I look upat the sky, you just
see millions and millionsof places that we
should be going. – It’s almost baked into
our DNA the desire togo and explore, right?
That’s the whole reasonwhy we left the forest
and then traveled acrossoceans, just to see
what’s out there. – I was born in 1969,
which is the year welanded on the moon.
So, I am a space baby. – When I was a kid,
there were guys drivingcars on the moon. They’re
driving cars on the moon. That’s so cool, right?
I wanna do that. – All the rocky planets
that we know of all havegot a metal core in their
center, and, especiallyfor the Earth it’s the
source of our magneticfield. We don’t know a lot
about our core, what we’velearned about it we’ve
learned indirectly,because we can’t go there. – It’s too hot. The
pressure’s too high, ourinstruments would melt.
Can’t drill a hole thatdeep in the Earth or other
planets. Turns out, we canstudy a planetary core out
in space because there’sthis one object, there’s
one object, called Psyche. – 16 Psyche is an
asteroid that orbits thesun out between
Mars and Jupiter. It is the only asteroid
that we are aware of, thatis 95% metal or more, and
is really huge. It’s about200 kilometers across
in one axis. – So, it’s about the size
of Massachusetts. – It’s believed that it
may be a remnant, core ofan early planetesimal that
was formed in the very,very earliest parts
of the formationof the solar system. – And, after this planet
started forming, and thismetal core formed inside
of that, it collided withother bodies that then
stripped off the rockymantle, leaving this
core in place. – The first thing that
came, actually, was thetheory. Some people from
Jet Propulsion Laboratorycontacted me and said,
“We would like to plan amission that would
test your hypothesis. “- And that starts you down
a road that takes years. So we wrote a proposal to
send a NASA spacecraft tovisit this, this big ball
of metal. And then abouta year ago, Lindy gets
a phone call. “You win!””Ahhh!” And then we’re all
like, “Oh my god, nowwe have to do it. “- Psyche gives us the
opportunity to visit acore, the only way that
humankind can ever do,and it will be the first
metal object thathumankind has
ever visited. – We’ve been approved to
go in August of 2022. So, we talked with our
mission design andnavigation team and, in
fact, they were able tocome up with what is
probably the most optimaltrajectory, doing a
Mars flyby. – Flies past Mars, gives
us a gravity assist, usesthat propulsion system to
then slowly creep uptowards the end of 2025,
getting there in early 2026. – SSL is building the
solar electric propulsionchassis. When we do the
mechanical, physical,integration of each
instrument on thespacecraft, we’ll work
hand-in-hand with each ofthe providers to get out
to Psyche and do afull discovery mission. – We’ve figured out a way
for many, many people tobuild something together
so complicated no oneperson can understand it,
but it all has to worktogether perfectly for
decades, without fail. – Just the fact that these
things work at all is athrill. It’s just a
testament to the engineersat JPL and the companies
that we collaborate withthat they can
build these things. – It’s exciting for me to
be able to me a womanwinning and leading a deep
space mission. The onlyprevious woman who
competed, won, and led adeep space mission was
Maria Zuber, who was myfriend and mentor at MIT.
And so my drive is to makeeveryone feel welcome, and
to have every voice heard. We want as many
undergraduates as we can. We want to involve as much
as of the public as we can. We want people to feel
like this is their mission. – You get that first
picture back, and youknow, one of the first
things that goes throughyour mind is “Oh, thank
god I didn’t leave thelens cap on. ” We will put
our pictures out there assoon as they come down.
So, we’ll discover at thesame time that the public
discovers. We’ll bescratching our heads and
it’s like, “I don’t knowwhat’s going on,” at the
same time everybody elseis like, “Wow, what is
that?” I don’t know,let’s figure it out. – I did get to look at
Psyche through an opticaltelescope in my backyard.
Some wonderful colleaguesbrought over their
telescope on a fortuitousnight. It’s a very, very
tiny faint dot, and thatmade a bunch of us cry, to
think that we could sendsomething to investigate
that speck of light. – We can understand this
universe that we live in. We can explore it, we can
learn about it, and we canbe a part of something
which is much bigger thanjust us or just this
planet. We’ll see newthings when we visit
a world made of metal.

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