The space fascinates us. Rockets, stars, spaceships, NASA… and for all that, today we bring you news that would bankrupt any company. Fortunately, NASA is not just any company.
NASA greenlights its long-delayed Psyche mission to deep space, valued at $985 million, to explore a metal-rich asteroid, also named Psyche, that could be worth up to $10 quadrillion, or 90 times the entire world economy.
Of course, the mission isn’t just for the sake of exploration, although that’s part of it too. It’s because the asteroid could contain a treasure trove of precious and essential metals for our Earth. That’s what it’s all about.
An asteroid that could be worth more than our entire world economy
Understanding the scale of the universe beyond Earth can often be challenging. Even within our own solar system, it’s difficult to conceptualize in human terms.
It’s easy to imagine the Moon as small enough to walk across in an afternoon, instead of realizing it has a surface area comparable to Africa. Similarly, one might think that Martian explorers are within close proximity to each other, rather than being separated by thousands of kilometers.
The same applies to potential resources. The asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, for instance, is essentially the leftover remnants from the formation of the solar system—a rounding error in its mass. However, it is estimated that the mineral wealth within the asteroid belt is sufficient to issue a $100 billion check to every person on Earth.
But not so fast, don’t spend your check yet
Indeed, all of this represents potential wealth. However, the process of harvesting these resources is another matter altogether. Nevertheless, several companies are already exploring ways to initiate commercial asteroid mining.
This is why the Psyche mission holds implications that extend beyond purely scientific motivation to learn more about the origins of planets.
With a diameter of 222 km, Psyche is not particularly unusual in terms of its size. What sets it apart is that it belongs to the M-class of asteroids, meaning it is metallic.
Its composition is largely nickel and iron, similar to what one might expect to find in the core of a planet, which makes it highly interesting to scientists. The extent to which Psyche is metallic versus rocky remains to be seen, and the Psyche spacecraft has the mission of helping to find those answers.
Once the independent review board is satisfied, Psyche has the green light for launch in October. It will take five years and 10 months to reach the asteroid using its solar-electric Hall propulsion system, and it is planned to orbit around the body for at least 26 months.
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