NASA is about to take the first step in space mining: a multimillion-dollar asteroid full of nickel and gold

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Psyche is one of the space missions that has created the most expectation in recent years and it is no wonder. Under the appearance of a small, nondescript probe traveling to the asteroid belt , hides the real (I repeat: real) possibility that its data will trigger an exploration fever that will destroy the Earth’s economy.

And no, I’m not exaggerating.

The news is that NASA has delayed the launch again.

Sorry, “destroy the world economy”? Yes, I’m getting to that: 16 psyque is an asteroid that orbits between Mars and Jupiter. Nothing that millions of other rocks won’t do. However, 16 psyche is a stone made up (largely) of metals.

According to experts, between 30 and 60% of its mass corresponds to elements such as iron, nickel and gold. The interesting thing on a scientific level is that, as we believe, 16 psyque is metallic because it is what remains of the metallic core of one of the first planets that formed in the solar system.

“If it turns out to be part of a metallic nucleus, it would be part of the first generation of primitive nuclei in our solar system,” Lindy Elkins-Tanton, a researcher at Arizona State University, explained in a press release .

That is to say, it is something very interesting because, if confirmed, it would allow us to better understand how these nuclei work and, by extension, how our nucleus works. In this key we must understand the NASA probe . What happens is that there is one more derivative.

200 kilometers in diameter and 10 trillion dollars. 16 psyque is, in fact, more than 200 kilometers in diameter. And an asteroid of more than 200 kilometers of iron, nickel and gold is an immense amount of metal.

That is, an immense amount of money. According to Business Insider calculations , it would be about $ 10 trillion . “So much so that if we distributed it among the approximately 8 billion inhabitants of the Earth, we would get more than 1.2 billion per head.” The global GDP in 2021 was approximately $96 trillion. We need 100,000 years in 2021 to raise a similar amount of money.

Goodbye, world economy. Because yes, we are very far from being able to speak properly about space mining. But… What would happen if we brought 10 trillion euros in metals to Earth? Well, a priori, nothing good: inflation could be reduced , but the destruction to the economy could be anthological.

In economics it is called Dutch disease , but it is something that has happened many times in history (and, for example, also affected imperial Spain ). It is the counterintuitive phenomenon that “the discovery of a mineral resource can have such a negative effect on other sectors of the economy (especially industries) that the long-term impact on the economy of a discovery becomes counterproductive.”

It doesn’t seem like a reason not to think about industrial mining, but it does seem like a reason to be worried (and prepare for the worst).

Whatever the case, Psyche won’t be out this week. After more than a year of delays, NASA has once again postponed the launch for another week. And then there will be three years until the probe data puts the next great space race on the table.