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This is how we know $10,000,000,000,000,000,000 asteroid Nasa is capturing's true value

Callum Jones

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This is how we know $10,000,000,000,000,000,000 asteroid Nasa is capturing's true value

Featured Image Credit: NASA

There has been a lot of talk surrounding NASA's $10,000,000,000,000,000,000 asteroid and its whopping value.

And why wouldn't there be, with that huge sum of money attached to it?

The space station announced over the summer that it was going to set off for the faraway asteroid named 16 Psyche, which is said to be filled with precious metals, including gold, iron and nickel, worth an eye-watering amount.

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And while the asteroid's contents is worth a staggering amount, NASA aren't going to capture 16 Psyche purely to harvest its precious metals, but to also learn more about planetary cores and how planets form.

The long-awaited mission officially began on October 13, which saw a rocket begin it's ascent to travel 2.2 billion-miles (3.5 billion km) to get to the asteroid, which is located in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

And with the very long distance that the SpaceX craft needs to travel, the rocket isn't expected to reach its destination until July 2029.

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The asteroid is a pretty expensive rock. Credit: Maxar/ASU/P. Rubin/NASA/JPL-Caltech
The asteroid is a pretty expensive rock. Credit: Maxar/ASU/P. Rubin/NASA/JPL-Caltech

It's also been reported that the ship will get a little velocity boost from Mars when passing it in May 2026.

There are nine metal-rich asteroids known to exist in our solar system, but 16 Psyche is the largest - which is why NASA chose it.

Psyche is known as an M-type asteroid though despite it being metallic, it is still not entirely obvious what type of metal it is made of.

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"Unfortunately, metal doesn't have a unique spectral fingerprint," Vishnu Reddy, a professor at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona told Space.com.

"You can tell that something's metallic, but you can't specifically tell which metal it is."

While scientists may not have definite answers, many believes Psyche's surface is made mostly of nickel and iron - which are elements usually found in asteroids.

And, using computer simulations, Wendy Caldwell, a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory has theorized that the asteroid could be made of Monel - a composition of nickel and copper - though she adds it isn't definitive.

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But regardless of what Psyche is made of, the amount of metal is very valuable - hence it's massive price tag.

There are currently no plans to mine the asteroid. Credit: NASA
There are currently no plans to mine the asteroid. Credit: NASA

There are currently no plans to mine Psyche, largely due to the fact there is no technology available at this current stage that would allow us to do so.

Nonetheless, with huge asteroids floating around in space with potentially expensive metals, some companies have began to draw up plans in regards to mining asteroids.

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According to Philip Metzger, a planetary physicist at the University of Central Florida, asteroid mining 'will be a real thing' and be 'profitable'.

It's already been theorised that the metal mined on Psyche alone could make everyone on Earth billionaires.

And Metzger believes it's possible that asteroid mining technology could be developed 'within decades' - meaning that asteroids like Psyche would more than likely be the first target.

Topics: Technology, Space, NASA

Callum Jones
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