Inside Nasa’s mission to probe a ‘golden’ asteroid worth 10 quintillion pounds in 2026

NASA is about to launch an ambitious mission to probe an asteroid estimated to be worth $10,000 trillion.

Twice the width of Wales, space rock 16-Psyche lies nestled in the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

An artist's rendering of Psyche 16, the final destination of a NASA spacecraft due to launch this year


An artist’s rendering of Psyche 16, the final destination of a NASA spacecraft due to launch this yearPhoto credit: NASA

Discovered in 1852, it was once known as the “golden asteroid” because scientists believed it was composed mostly of precious metal.

However, subsequent observations suggest that Psyche is most likely composed of a mixture of rock, iron, and nickel.

This summer, Nasa will embark on a mission to study the metal-rich object to determine its origin.

It will be NASA’s first visit to a metallic asteroid.

Launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Psyche probe will reach its destination in early 2026.

The asteroid is believed to be the shattered core of a planetesimal — a small world the size of a city or small country.

The lumps of material are the first building blocks of planets and are believed to have been abundant in the early universe.

If Psyche is a planetesimal, it can shed light on the interiors of terrestrial planets like Earth.

The core of our own world is hidden beneath miles of mantle and crust, making it nearly impossible to study.

NASA’s spacecraft will use a suite of instruments to study Psyche’s magnetic field, gravitational pull, surface texture and more.

NASA says: “During 21 months in orbit, the spacecraft will map and study Psyche.

“One of the goals of the mission is to determine whether Psyche is actually the core of a planetesimal.”

Astronomers on Earth have studied Psyche in great detail and believe that she is shaped somewhat like a potato.

In all, the various metals of Psyche are estimated to be worth a staggering £10,000 quadrillion.

That means if we brought it back to Earth it would wreck commodity prices and collapse the global economy – worth £59.5 trillion.

We’ve known of Psyche 16 for some time, but its potential to wreak havoc on Earth was recently raised by a veteran miner.

Scott Moore, head of EuroSun Mining, said the sheer amount of gold in the asteroid threatens to throw the gold industry into chaos.

“The ‘Titans of Gold’ now control hundreds of the best producing properties around the world,” he said oil price in 2019.

“But the 4-5 million ounces of gold they bring to market each year pales in comparison to the conquests available in space.”

Luckily, Nasa is making the trip for scientific purposes, not mining.

Psyche was discovered by Italian astronomer Annibale de Gasparis on March 17, 1852.

He named the asteroid after Psyche, the Greek goddess of the soul, who married Eros (Roman Cupid), the god of love.

The Psyche mission will reach the asteroid in 2026


The Psyche mission will reach the asteroid in 2026Photo credit: NASA
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