“Psyche” is both the name of an asteroid in the main belt, orbiting out past Mars, and the name of a NASA mission to visit that asteroid. The upcoming exploration of this asteroid marks an important first for humankind: NASA has sent people or robots to explore rocky bodies, like the Moon and Mars, and icy ones, like Europa and Enceladus, and gas-rich bodies like Jupiter, but never a body made mostly of metal.

On Friday, Feb. 24 at 3:30 p.m., Dr. Lindy Elkins-Tanton, lead scientist of the NASA Psyche mission, will present the 2023 Day Prize Lecture "The NASA Psyche Mission: An Electric Journey to a Metal World" and will explain how the NASA mission came to be, who is working on her team, and how far they've come in building this spacecraft and preparing to launch in 2023.

The talk will be held in room 1100 at UNM’s Physics & Astronomy Interdisciplinary Science (PAÍS) building and will also be webcast. To register for the webcast, visit Day Prize Lecture Series.

Elkins-Tanton promises that Psyche will surprise us, the universe always outsteps even the best imaginations. The entire Psyche team looks forward to sharing all they discover with everyone here on Earth. Psyche’s density, radar, and reflected light properties indicate that it is largely made of metal. If Psyche turns out to be what scientists think, they’ll be visiting a new kind of world. The Psyche spacecraft is scheduled for launch in 2023 and arrival in 2026.

"We're excited and honored that Dr. Elkins-Tanton has chosen UNM as one of the two institutions nationwide to give her Day Prize lecture. We've planned a busy program of scientific discussions with her.  We're looking forward to hearing about this fascinating and unique NASA mission."

A renowned lecturer and public speaker, Elkins-Tanton is the 2020 recipient of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Arthur L. Day Prize and Lectureship, awarded to a scientist making lasting contributions to the study of the physics of the Earth and whose lectures will provide solid, timely, and useful additions to the knowledge and literature in the field. 

Elkins-Tanton is the vice president of Arizona State University’s Interplanetary Initiative, and co-founder of Beagle Learning, a tech company training and measuring collaborative problem-solving and to help shape the next generation of critical thinkers. She is the world’s leading figure in the early evolution of rocky planets and planetesimals, has produced high-impact publications on magma oceans, studied the formation of the Siberian flood basalts and how they triggered catastrophic climate change and the extinction event at the end of the Permian, and explored models of thermal processing on the early moon that may help us understand the complex history recorded in ancient lunar crustal rocks.

Elkins-Tanton has been awarded the Explorers Club Lowell Thomas prize, has been the Astor Fellow at Oxford University, and is a fellow of the American Geophysical Union and American Mineralogical Society, and a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences. Additionally, Asteroid (8252) Elkins-Tanton is named for her.

Elkins-Tanton received her academic degrees from MIT. She worked at Brown University, MIT, and the Carnegie Institution for Science before moving to Arizona State University. Asteroid (8252) Elkins-Tanton is named for her. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and in 2022 William Morrow published her memoir, A Portrait of the Scientist as a Young Woman.

Visit the Arthur L. Day Prize and Lectureship for more information on this prestigious award.