Half a century ago, the thought to go to the moon was the craziest thing humans could think of. Fifty years later, humans are thinking about habilitating Mars and touching the sun, and no one thinks that they are crazy anymore. The next mission on NASA’s plan is Psyche which will take a spacecraft to explore the unique metallic asteroid three times the distance between Earth and Sun.
According to NASA, the Psyche mission aims to explore the asteroid 16 Psyche, one-of-a-kind in its constituents. Unlike most other asteroids that are made of rock or ice, 16 Psyche is made of metallic iron and nickel, similar to Earth’s core. Some scientists even consider it to be the exposed core of some early planet. The only known object of its kind, 16 Psyche is precious for its potential economic value.
The exorbitant cost of space travel today does not allow us to bring a huge chunk of metal from outer space to our planet, but Global News says that the amount of iron alone from the asteroid is worth $10,000 quadrillion. The gross world product (GWP) was recorded at $73.3 trillion in 2015 and bringing such a valuable resource would cause the entire global economy to collapse.
NASA mission lead scientist Lindy Elkins-Tanton commented, “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? What if you decided you were going to bring it back and you were just going to solve the metal resource problems of humankind for all time? This is wild speculation, obviously.”
The mission is planned for 2023 and knowing that no existing technology can bring the asteroid to Earth, Psyche will settle for the observation of the asteroid to collect data.
Even the most advanced of the technology may fail to bring us the resources and transform the economy, but we sure will learn a lot about the asteroids, early universe, and its planets.