There are 10,000 Quintillion reasons for NASA to travel to asteroid 16 Psyche
[Aug 8, 2021: Tom Wood]
NASA is planning a mission up to an asteroid that is hurtling around in our solar system, and it could be a seriously lucrative mission if it is a success.
In fact, the number in terms of the potential value of the precious metals that the asteroid may be composed of is simply baffling, because it's supposedly worth more than $10,000 quintillion.
That's not even worth doing the UK conversion for, as it's such an unfamiliar and massive number.
OK, if we must, it's around £8,072 quadrillion. Does that help at all?
To put that into context, it's got 22 zeros after it. Written down, it looks like this - 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.
It's worth enough to make everyone currently living on earth a billionaire. That's a lot of money.
Anyway, the asteroid with this unfathomable wealth of precious metals stashed away on it is called Psyche 16, and it was actually discovered back in March 1852.
The 124-mile space rock is set to become the primary focus of a NASA mission which is set for lift off in August 2022.
If it does go ahead, the craft would arrive on the asteroid about four years later, because - you know - everything in space is a long way away.
This would be the first mission that humans have sent to somewhere that is made out of metal, rather than rock and ice, as NASA said: "Unlike most other asteroids that are rocky or icy bodies, scientists think the M-type (metallic) asteroid 16 Psyche is comprised mostly of metallic iron and nickel similar to Earth."
It turns out that those sorts of metals in that quantity are worth a hell of a lot.
Of course, there is the question of how you would extract that worth, given that it's floating around in space some four years travel away, but that's something that NASA will presumably intend to scope out on this prospective mission.
So, the asteroid sits between Mars and Jupiter and is thought to have been the 'remnants of a protoplanet' that was destroyed in hit-and-run collisions when the solar system formed', according to the Daily Mail.
Researchers on a recent study said: "The findings are a step toward resolving the mystery of the origin of this unusual object, which has been thought by some to be a chunk of the core of an ill-fated protoplanet".
Katherine de Kleer, assistant professor of planetary science and astronomy at Caltech, added: "We think that fragments of the cores, mantles, and crusts of these objects remain today in the form of asteroids.
"If that's true, it gives us our only real opportunity to directly study the cores of planet-like objects."
Also, it might be worth an unimaginable amount of money, so it's probably worth taking a closer look.
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