Exploring a Metal Asteroid

The Psyche Gamma-Ray and Neutron Spectrometer (GRNS) will investigate the composition of a unique metal asteroid to provide clues about the formation of rocky planets.

About the Instrument

Instrument Type
Gamma-Ray and Neutron

The NASA Psyche mission will explore Psyche, a unique, metal-rich asteroid in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter that may be an exposed nickel-iron core of an early planet. The goal of the mission is to characterize Psyche’s composition and geology to better understand how planetary bodies have formed and changed over time. APL will provide the Psyche Gamma-Ray and Neutron Spectrometer (GRNS), which will quantify Psyche’s elemental composition. The Psyche GRNS builds on a similar APL-developed GRNS flown on the successful MESSENGER mission that explored the planet Mercury.

GRNS Instrument
Detailed, 3D renderings of Psyche's gamma-ray spectrometer (left) and neutron spectrometer (right). Together, these instruments will characterize the composition and geology of the metal-rich asteroid Psyche.

Planetary gamma-ray and neutron spectroscopy is a widely used technique to remotely measure the elemental composition of planetary bodies. APL has significant experience in carrying out such measurements for the NASA MESSENGER and NEAR missions. Additional APL-led gamma-ray and neutron spectroscopy measurements are planned for the Japanese Martin Moons eXploration (MMX) mission and NASA’s Dragonfly mission.