NASA targets asteroid so valuable it would instantly crash the world economy
It's hard to believe that as I sit here at my desk writing this article, there are loads of rocks above my head circling around a giant, raging ball of fire. While that may be trivializing space in extremely simplistic terms, it still never fails to amaze me. Space is neverending - something which absolutely terrifies me (everything has an end, right?) - and the truth is that we don't actually know much about the abyss that lingers over our heads.
However, one thing we do know about space is that asteroids are busy buzzing around up there. While we tend to ignore asteroids, simply rubbishing them as mental little stones who fly about space with no sense of direction, it turns out that they're actually pretty valuable.
In light of their value, NASA has decided to move ahead with a mission to an asteroid that is reportedly so valuable it could destroy the world's economy. It's being reported that due to a hoard of metals that exist on the hurtling stone, the asteroid could be worth up to £8,000 quadrillion - a number I never even knew existed.
The expedition, which is being dubbed "Psyche mission" is set to launch in 2022 and will target a metal-rich asteroid known as 16 Psyche, with the landing being set to happen in 2026.
Unsurprisingly, given the value of the asteroid, a number of American companies have come forward to send robotic vehicles into space in order to mine precious metals and rare resources that can be found on asteroids. One of the companies to express an interest is Planetary Resources, a company which is backed by Titanic director, James Cameron.
Christian Schroeder of the University of Stirling, says: "Asteroids crossing Earth’s orbit may become convenient targets for mining operations, providing materials that are running out on Earth."
The principal investigator of Psyche, Lindy Elkins-Tanton of Arizona State University in Tempe, said that the 124-mile wide asteroid would be worth an insane amount if there was any way that it could be dragged back down to Earth.
"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 Psyche mission will aim to explore one of the fascinating targets in the asteroid belt, a metal asteroid known as 16 Psyche, which is three times farther away from the sun than it is the Earth. Unlike most asteroids which have rocky or icy bodies, Psyche 16 appears to be compromised mostly of metallic iron and nickel - similar to Earth's core.
I, for one, don't think we should be heading into space and meddling with asteroids. I mean, what if we mess something up and knock it off-course? A giant object falling to Earth didn't work well for the dinosaurs, so I don't think it'd be great news for us either.