SpaceX's first Falcon Heavy mission for NASA did not disappoint.
The Falcon Heavy — the second-most powerful rocket currently in operation, after NASA's Space Launch System — launched the agency's Psyche asteroid mission from Kennedy Space Center in Florida this morning (Oct. 13).
It was the eighth liftoff overall for the Heavy and its fourth already in 2023. But the sight of the triple-core rocket climbing into the sky — and coming back down to Earth — was still a dazzling one, as the photos below make clear.
Psyche now has a long road ahead of it. The spacecraft is scheduled to arrive at its namesake, a 173-mile-wide (280 kilometers) metallic object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, in 2029.
The probe will then study the asteroid Psyche up close for about two years. Scientists think the space rock may be the exposed core of an ancient planetary building block, so the mission's observations could shed considerable light on our solar system's early days, the formation of planets and the characteristics of Earth's core.
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Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with Space.com and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.