In 2023 NASA will visit Psyche, an asteroid that if caught and returned to Earth would have the potential to change the world as we know it.
Located in the vast asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and believed to be the core of a long-dead planet, this floating hulk is unique in our solar system because it is made almost entirely of metal.
This 200km ball of metal contains iron, nickel and possibly even some rare Earth metals including gold, platinum and even cobalt.
It’s a truly remarkable object and one that if brought back to Earth would almost certainly collapse our world economy.
You see a 200km ball of metal is actually worth quite a lot of money, the iron alone would be worth around $10,000 quadrillion, according to Psyche Principal investigator Lindy Elkins-Tanton.
That’s a problem for one key reason: The entire world economy is only worth around $73 trillion.
Speaking to Global News Canada, Elkins-Tanton said: “Even if we could grab a big metal piece and drag it back here … what would you do? Could you kind of sit on it and hide it and control the global resource — kind of like diamonds are controlled corporately — and protect your market?”
Thankfully for the global economy humanity doesn’t currently posses the ability to bring Psyche back to Earth, or indeed send spacecraft to it mine some of those metals.
For now then, NASA’s visit will be one of pure discovery, it’ll also be a chance to visit an object that we’ve have never seen before.
It’ll give scientists a chance to see sights that have only been hypothesised until now.
“What would an impact crater into a metal surface look like? We don’t know, we’ve never seen one.” explains Elkins-Tanton.
Psyche’s history is almost as fascinating as its metal composition.
“We think Psyche is the metal core of a small planet that was destroyed in the high-energy, high-speed first 1/100,00ths of the Universe’s life.”
The psyche mission is expected to launch in 2023, and it will take until 2030 for the spacecraft to arrive.
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