The space agency is planning to send a space module to Psyche 16, the biggest known asteroid and the largest of the asteroid belt in 2023 to learn more about how solar systems form. The space mission will be led by Arizona State University researchers with a special focus on the gigantic lump of metal floating in space. NASA scientists have theorized the asteroid could be a core stripped of its layers of a planet that was once roughly the size of Mars. According to the scientists’ suppositions, Psyche 16 most likely lost its outer layers after multiple other cosmic bodies smashed into the former planet’s surface.
NASA is planning to launch the Psyche 16 space mission in 2013. The space module will most likely get close enough to the asteroid to gather enough data for scientists to analyze. However, this will only happen sometime in 2030, according to the scientists’ estimations. The researchers hope Psyche 16 will yield enough information to better understand how planets like Earth or Mars formed and how their bodies have separated into layers of crust, mantle, and core.
One of the most interesting aspects of the asteroid is that it is comprised of metal, rather than ice or rock. Also, scientists regard it as one of the building blocks of our planetary system. Lindy Elkins-Tanton, Principal Investigator at Arizona State University said that the Psyche 16 mission is humanity’s best shot of ever visiting a core. She also believes that by visiting outer space, researchers will be able to better understand how inner space works.
Psyche 16 is a 200-km-wide asteroid composed of nickel, iron, and perhaps some rare metals like cobalt, platinum, and gold. Researchers have estimated the asteroid’s value at approximately $10,000 quadrillion, an amount which exceeds by far the whole world’s economy. In 2015, the gross world product was only $73.7 trillion, in comparison. However, as good as it sounds, NASA does not have the technology needed to ship the asteroid to Earth. Even if the space agency would be capable of such a feat, scientists are unsure whether this would help humans in any way.
“Could you kind of sit on it and hide it and control the global resource and protect your market?”, wonders Lindy Elkins-Tanton.
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