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HomeTechAsteroid 16 Psyche is worth 100,000 times global GDP - Executive Summary

Asteroid 16 Psyche is worth 100,000 times global GDP – Executive Summary

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NASA is chasing the “pot of gold”: It's not at the end of the rainbow, but in deep space: There's a $10,000,000,000,000,000 asteroid (about 10 quintillion) that the US space agency is chasing and intends to use thrusters to get there by the end of the decade.

This incalculable value is equivalent to about 100,000 times the global GDP.

The asteroid, called “16 Psyche”, is located millions of kilometers from Earth, in the asteroid belt, between Jupiter and Mars, which contains a huge amount of precious metals.

NASA has launched a spacecraft – also called Psyche – to explore the asteroid Kennedy Space Center from Florida (USA), but it will not arrive before August 2029.

Psyche is a large asteroid located in the asteroid belt, with a diameter of about 278.4 kilometers at its widest point: its distance from Earth is between 300 and 600 million kilometres, depending on the position of both objects in their orbits.

Unlike most asteroids, which are primarily rocky or icy, Psyche is thought to be largely composed of metallic iron and nickel — perhaps 30 to 60 percent, leading scientists to speculate that it is the exposed core of a primitive planet that lost its outer layers due to violent collisions in the early solar system, or even the remains of a different type of metal-rich cosmic body.

Exploring “Psyche” will give scientists a unique look at a body that may resemble the interior of our own planet, providing clues about the building blocks of planets and the early history of the solar system. The mission could also pave the way for future exploration and potential mining of metal-rich asteroids, which could have major implications for space resources and industry.

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“I'm excited to see the scientific treasure Psyche will unlock as NASA's first mission to a metallic world,” highlights NASA's Nicola Fox. “By studying the asteroid Psyche, we hope to better understand our world and our place in it, especially with regard to the mysterious and inaccessible metallic core of our planet Earth.”

The Psyche spacecraft is on its way to the asteroid. At the end of May, it was 305.7 million kilometers from Earth and moving at a speed of 37 kilometers per second. The spacecraft will take a long spiral path to reach the asteroid, with a total length of about 3.5 billion kilometers.

The spacecraft recently entered “full cruise” mode, meaning it began using electric ion thrusters to propel its journey toward the asteroid. These future thrusters work by firing xenon-charged ions, powered by sunlight, and exerting a constant acceleration.

The spacecraft will pass by Mars in the spring of 2026, before its final race toward the asteroid, scheduled to arrive in 2029. It will then orbit the asteroid for about 26 months, mapping its surface, gravity and magnetic field.

“This will be the first time we’ve sent a mission to an object that’s not primarily made of rock or ice, but is primarily made of metal,” says Benjamin Weiss, a professor of planetary science at MIT. “Not only is this asteroid likely to be a metallic world, but asteroids are the building blocks of planets. So ‘Psyche’ could tell us something about how planets form.”

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