Share Opinion NASA Asteroids This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. Three times further away from the sun than the Earth lies an enormous lump of metal. Around 252 kilometers [157 miles] in diameter, the metallic “M-class” asteroid 16 Psyche is the target of NASA’s next mission to the belt of giant rocks that encircles the inner solar system. And the space agency now plans to visit it much sooner than originally planned. Not only has the launch been brought forward one year to the summer of 2022, but NASA’s scientists have also found a way to get to Psyche (pronounced SYKe-ee) much faster by taking a more efficient trajectory. The new route means the Psyche spacecraft won’t have to swing around the Earth to build up speed and won’t pass as close to the sun, so it needs less heat protection. It is now due to arrive in 2026, four years earlier than the original timeline. Keep up with this story and more by subscribing now The main aim of the journey to Psyche is to gather more information about our own solar system. Psyche is one of many wandering members of the asteroid belt. Unlike the rest of its rocky neighbors, Psyche appears to be entirely made of nickel and iron, just like the Earth’s core. This, together with its size, has led to the theory that it might be the remains of the inside of a planet. Asteroids are made up of primitive materials, leftovers from the dust cloud from which our solar system originated. Different types of asteroids resemble the various steps it took to form planets from this dust cloud. This means they reveal a lot about the origin and evolution of our solar system. Scientists think Psyche could be what’s left of an exposed metal core of a planet very similar to Earth. We actually derive much of our knowledge about asteroids and the evolution of planets from the study of meteorites. Many asteroids and comets are primitive protoplanetary bodies accumulated from the same dust cloud our solar system originates from. As these protoplanetary bodies collide, gravity pulls them together into ever-larger bodies. Eventually these bodies become big and hot enough to partially melt, allowing heavy