NASA has set the date for a trip to an asteroid that could be worth “quadrillions” of dollars.
The Discovery Mission will launch in summer 2022, with a planned arrival at the main asteroid belt where the space rock is located expected in 2026 — four years earlier than the agency’s initial plans.
The asteroid, called 16 Psyche, is a massive hunk of precious metals including platinum and gold as well as iron and nickel.
It orbits the sun between Mars and Jupiter and is of great scientific interest because it holds clues to one of the earliest eras in the history of our solar system — less than 10 million years after the birth of our sun.
But now it’s grabbed the attention of money-hungry entrepreneurs and investors thanks to its stratospheric price tag.
Valued at $10,000 quadrillion, according to Lindy Elkins-Tanton, the lead scientist on the NASA mission, it is definitely worth more than its weight in gold.
But bringing back an asteroid of this value could completely wipe out our global economy.
Luckily, the space agency is taking the trip for scientific purposes and isn’t planning on conducting any mining — yet.
It reckons 16 Psyche is a survivor of violent hit-and-run collisions between planets that were common when the solar system was forming.
That means it could tell us how Earth’s core and the cores of the other terrestrial planets were formed.
“We challenged the mission design team to explore if an earlier launch date could provide a more efficient trajectory to the asteroid Psyche, and they came through in a big way,” said Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA headquarters in Washington.
“This will enable us to fulfill our science objectives sooner and at a reduced cost.”
Two space mining companies — backed by big-name celebs — are gearing up for a gold rush after asteroid ownership was made legal in 2015.
Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources each have their eyes on the 2011 UW158 asteroid, which is twice the size of the Tower of London and worth up to $5 trillion.