NASA is launching a mission to study an asteroid believed to contain so many precious metals that everyone on Earth would be billionaires.
The fortune that “brings” that celestial body is estimated at about 10,000 billion dollars.
Discovered in March 1852, the Psyche 16 Rock is 200 km wide. One and a half centuries after the discovery, the asteroid will be the focus of NASA’s project, which is expected to begin in August 2022.
The US space agency spacecraft is due to arrive at its destination four years later, in early 2026.
This will be the first exploration of metals instead of rock and ice, which is a common practice in celestial body missions.
“Unlike most other asteroids that are rocks or icy bodies, scientists believe that the M-type metal asteroid consists mainly of iron and nickel similar to those found on Earth,” said NASA.
The asteroid is located between Mars and Jupiter, and part of the protoplanet is believed to have been destroyed by numerous collisions with other bodies during the formation of the solar system. The goal is to solve the mystery of the origin of this asteroid.
A team in California has developed a temperature map that will help NASA experts better understand the properties of the asteroid’s surface. Infrared images of celestial bodies usually give only a fragment of data equivalent to one pixel, but researchers hope for a resolution of 50 pixels.
“The findings are a huge step towards solving the mystery of the origin of this unusual object, which some thought was part of the core of an unlucky protoplanet,” said researchers in a recent study.
They found that the asteroid’s surface was at least 30 percent metallic, and that surface rocks also contained smaller pieces of metal.
Based on images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, the asteroid is valued at about $ 10,000 billion.