A giant asteroid has enough gold on it to make everyone on Earth a billionaire

By Rhona Shennan
Thursday, 27 June, 2019, 11:56
16 Psyche got its name from the nymph Psyche, who married Cupid (Photo: NASA)

First discovered on 17 March 1852, 16 Psyche is a giant metal asteroid valued high enough to turn everyone on Earth into a billionaire.

Comprising mainly of metallic iron and nickel, similar to the Earth’s core, Nasa will launch a mission to the asteroid in 2022.

What does it mean for Earth?

The highly unique asteroid has been valued at around £8,000 quadrillion.

That means if it was somehow transported back to Earth, it would totally destroy our commodity prices and cause the global economy (worth around £59.9 trillion) to collapse.

Lindy Elkins-Tanton, the Psyche Principal Investigator, said: “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 asteroid is currently sitting somewhere between Mars and Jupiter.

The mission

According to Nasa, the mission to 16 Psyche presents the opportunity to “explore a new type of world”.

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“For the first time, examine a world made not of rock and ice, but metal,” the mission statement reads.

If the mission goes ahead in 2022, arrival at the unique asteroid will happen four years later in 2026.

A period of 21 months in orbit will be spent mapping and studying the unusual properties of 16 Psyche.

NASA explains: “Over 21 months in orbit, the spacecraft will map and study 16 Psyche’s properties using a multispectral imager, a gamma ray and neutron spectrometer, a magnetometer, and a radio instrument (for gravity measurement).”

What they hope to learn

“What makes the asteroid Psyche unique is that it appears to be the exposed nickel-iron core of an early planet, one of the building blocks of our solar system,” Nasa explains.

Scientists think that the asteroid is the exposed core of a planet.

“Because we cannot see or measure Earth's core directly, Psyche offers a unique window into the violent history of collisions and accretion that created terrestrial planets,” Nasa said.

It will give us an insight into how Earth was created at the beginning of its history.

The mission to this asteroid will allow us to gain a greater understanding of “the building blocks of planet formation by exploring firsthand a wholly new and uncharted type of world”.

This article originally appeared on our sister site Edinburgh Evening News