/ Modified feb 28, 2023 12:15 p.m.

ASU scientist prepares to run first-ever planetary mission to a metal world

16 Psyche robotic spacecraft is scheduled to launch later this year.

Elkins Tanton Artist's illustration of the 16 Psyche asteroid.

NASA is scheduled to launch a robotic spacecraft to visit a rare asteroid made of metal later this year. Arizona State University planetary scientist Lindy Elkins-Tanton is the principal investigator for the 16 Psyche mission.

"There aren't many classes of objects in our solar system that we haven't photographed or visited or measured, and this is one of them," she said.

This is the first time Elkins-Tanton has led a planetary mission for NASA. She was originally trained as a geologist after earning a doctorate at M.I.T. Elkins-Tanton has written about the various paths her career has taken in a memoir she'll be discussing at next weekend's Tucson Festival of Books.

"And what I hope that people of any gender and background can take away from this is the thrill of discovery and most important of all, not to be discouraged when they're not in a good place right at that moment."

Elkins-Tanton grew up in Ithaca New York. She earned an undergraduate degree in science intending to become a veterinarian, but took a detour and went into business for almost ten years before getting a Ph.D and exploring planetary research.

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