The National Aeronautics and Space Agency (Nasa) has recently spotted a giant asteroid named as ‘16 Psyche’, which has mass of less than 1% of moon and it contains heaps of platinum, iron and nickel alongside the gold. Yes, you read it right. The 16 Psyche contains enough precious heavy metals that can make everyone on Earth a billionaire.
16 Psyche, which is about 140 miles wide and orbits the Sun between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, is the target of a NASA mission launching in 2022. The US space agency will launch a craft in August 2022 to visit the asteroid. The plan is to arrive there by 2026 and spend 21 months in orbit, conducting a full study of the space rock with equipment like an ultispectral imager, a gamma ray and neutron spectrometer and a magnetometer.
The mission aims to determine whether the asteroid is the exposed core of a former planet – something that could reveal how the Earth was formed, and may one day die.
In a statement, NASA said, "Deep within rocky, terrestrial planets - including Earth - scientists infer the presence of metallic cores, but these lie unreachable below planets' rocky mantles and crusts."
"Because scientists cannot see or measure Earth's core directly, Psyche offers a unique window into the violent history of collisions and accretion that created terrestrial planets," it added.
However, the 16 Psyche has also caught the attention of space mining companies, which are convinced that mining asteroids is the next big thing.
According to the media reports, it is estimated that Psyche's iron alone is worth a whopping £8,000 quadrillion that would make all seven billion people on Earth billionaires overnight. A quadrillion is 1 with 15 noughts after it.
"Once you set up the infrastructure then the possibilities are almost infinite," Mitch Hunter-Scullion, founder of the UK-based Asteroid Mining Company, told the BBC last year.
"There's an astronomical amount of money to be made by those bold enough to rise to the challenge of the asteroid rush," he added.
Interestingly, 16 Psyche is not the only asteroid that space mining companies have their eyes on. Asteroid UW-158, which is twice the size of the Tower of London, is thought to have a 90 million tonne core of platinum, worth around £3 trillion.
However, some scientists have warned that the mining in space could pose a major threat to the future of life on Earth.
Martin Elvis, a senior astrophysicist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, warns that the implications for humanity's future could be catastrophic.
"If we don't think about this now, we will go ahead as we always have, and in a few hundred years we will face an extreme crisis, much worse than we have on Earth now," Elvis told The Guardian. "Once you've exploited the solar system, there's nowhere left to go," he added.