NASA has announced plans to launch a robotic mission to explore a 200-km-wide asteroid known as 16 Psyche. The asteroid is located in the large asteroid belt between the planets Jupiter and Mars. Scientists estimate that the iron contained in the asteroid could be worth more than about $10,000 quadrillion.
The asteroid, orbiting the Sun at a distance about three times the distance of Earth from the Sun, is made up mostly of iron and nickel. It is also believed to contain smaller amounts of rare metals, such as gold, platinum, copper, cobalt, iridium and rhenium.
NASA’s robotic mission, budgeted at $450 million, is expected to be launched in 2023 and reach the asteroid in 2030.
Lindy Elkins-Tanton, lead scientist for the mission and director of the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University in Tempe, told the Canadian news site, Global News, that the iron content of asteroid 16 Psyche alone could be worth more than $10,000 quadrillion, which is enough to collapse the global economy currently worth nearly $74 trillion.
Commenting on the staggering value of the asteroid’s metal resources, and the hypothetical economic implications if it could be transported and placed in orbit around Earth for mining, Elkins-Tanton said, “That’s something I’ve contemplated for a long time.”
“Even if we could grab a big metal piece and drag it back here… what would you do?” she wondered. “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.”