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NASA's Journey to $10,000 Quadrillion Metal Asteroid Could Transform Global Economy

Jun 02, 2017 12:36 PM EDT
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Artist's Concept of Psyche Spacecraft with Five-Panel Array
This artist's-concept illustration depicts the spacecraft of NASA's Psyche mission near the mission's target, the metal asteroid Psyche. The artwork was created in May 2017 to show the five-panel solar arrays planned for the spacecraft.
(Photo : NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State Univ./Space Systems Loral/Peter Rubin)

One of the most exciting missions lined up for NASA is Psyche, which will take a spacecraft to explore a one-of-a-kind metallic asteroid three times farther from the sun than Earth.

According to an official report from NASA, the mission Psyche aims to explore the asteroid 16 Psyche which is unique because of its makeup. Instead of being made of rock or ice like most asteroids, this one is comprised mostly of metallic iron and nickel that's similar to Earth's core. In fact, some scientists suggested that it could be the exposed core of an early planet.

16 Psyche is a precious resource because it's the only known object of its kind in the universe - but also because of the potential economic value it could yield.

Mankind is a long way away from dragging this 130-mile-wide chunk of space rock to Earth, but a report from Global News revealed that asteroid's iron alone was estimated to be worth around $10,000 quadrillion. Considering the gross world product (GWP) in 2015 was recorded at only $73.3 trillion, it's likely that bringing in such a high-value resource would cause the economy to collapse.

"Even if we could grab a big metal piece and drag it back here ... what would you do?" lead scientist of the NASA mission Lindy Elkins-Tanton pointed out. "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."

There's no existing technology to actually bring the asteroid to Earth, so the team's goal on 2023 is to simply observe and collect data.

Whether or not Psyche will actually be able to transform the economy, it's certain to provide new information on asteroids or early planetary formation.

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