An asteroid made of gold? A giant asteroid known as 16 Psyche contains enough precious heavy metals to make everyone on Earth multi-millionaires. It is believed that Psyche iron alone is worth an amazing 10,000 quadrillion US dollars.
The asteroid, which is about 140 miles wide and orbits the Sun between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, is the target of a launch of the NASA mission in 2022.
Core of a previous planet
The mission aims to determine if the asteroid is the exposed core of a previous planet, something that could reveal how the Earth was formed and that one day it could die.
"Deep within the rocky terrestrial planets, including Earth, scientists infer the presence of metallic nuclei, but these are unreachable under the layers and rocky layers of the planets," says NASA.
"Because scientists can not see or measure the Earth's core directly, Psyche offers a unique window into the violent history of collisions and accretion that created the terrestrial planets."
An asteroid loaded with gold and precious metals
But Psyche is not just a topic of scientific interest. It has also caught the attention of space mining companies, which hope to one day exploit the asteroid's rich reserves of gold, iron and nickel.
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It is estimated that only Psyche iron is worth ten quadrillion dollars.
If they recovered it and shared the profits in equal parts, the seven billion people on Earth would be billionaires overnight.
Unfortunately, it is an economic impossibility. The world economy is worth 75.9 trillion dollars, so injecting several quadrillions in it could make everything collapse.
However, that has not stopped some companies from considering space mining as the next big investment opportunity.
"Once you set up the infrastructure, the possibilities are almost endless," Mitch Hunter-Scullion, founder of the Asteroid Mining Company, based in the United Kingdom, told the BBC last year.
"There is an astronomical amount of money that can be earned by those audacious enough to face the challenge of the asteroid race."
Other asteroids in the sights
16 Psyche It is not the only asteroid in which space mining companies have their eyes set.
It is believed that the asteroid UW-158, which is twice the size of the Tower of London, has a platinum core of 90 million tons, for an approximate value of 3.8 trillion dollars.
However, some scientists have warned that the impetus to begin mining in space could pose a great threat to the future of life on Earth.
The threat of space mining
The researchers claim that, unless we preserve our solar system from industrial exploitation, we run the risk of permanently using all resources within human reach within 400 years.
At that time, humanity would have only 60 years to stop the mining activity to avoid exhausting the supply completely.
Martin Elvis, an astrophysicist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, warns that the implications for the future of humanity could be catastrophic.
"If we do not think about this now, we will go ahead as we have always done, and in a few hundred years we will face an extreme crisis, much worse than we have now on Earth," Elvis told The Guardian.
"Once you have exploited the solar system, there is nowhere left to go."
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