The upcoming endeavor, which is called Psyche, was announced on Wednesday. Slated to launch in 2023, the craft will travel to its namesake body, 16 Psyche, which in addition to being very large and very far away, is like no other known asteroid in the main belt.
Rather than being comprised of the typical materials of rock and ice, 16 Psyche is believed to be a mass of nickel and iron. Scientists believe that Psyche may be the exposed core of a planet that was once the size of Mars. But it lost its outer rocky layers due to a series of violent collisions.
According to NASA, the study of 16 Psyche will help scientists understand how planets and other bodies separated into their layers, including cores, mantles, and crusts early in their histories.