The mysterious metal asteroid Psyche shines with green, jewel-like stones and costs 10,000 quadrillion dollars.
In her dreams, Lindsay Elkins-Tanton imagined an asteroid 16 Psyche glittering on the Sun, with rocks stretching up to nine miles into the sky, and orange and white lava sulfur flowed along winding metal paths.
The surface and rock walls of Psyche can be mottled with beautiful green gems, such as olivine or pyroxene, which are formed when the metal core mixes with the long-disappeared rocky mantle.
Scientists suspect that Psyche, located about three times farther from the Sun than Earth, in the main asteroid belt, lost its stone cover during a collision with other bodies. Then the Solar System was about 10-20 million years old.
Computer simulation demonstrates repeated lightning-fast accidents that could leave nickel and iron (the remnant of the core of a long-dead sister planet).
There is so much metal on a 130-mile asteroid that if somehow transported to Earth, its value would have reached 10,000 quadrillion dollars - about 100,000 more gross national product around the world today. If nickel, copper, cobalt, iridium, platinum, gold and rhenium are added in approximately the same concentrations found in iron meteorites (and which are supposedly present at Psyche), the amount will increase 10 times.
“Obviously, if there was a way to transport it all here, the price would be completely different,” says Elkins-Tanton. “It would completely destroy the steel, nickel and cobalt market. All of these materials are simply worthless. ”
The new mission, funded by NASA, will try to understand the mysterious origin of Psyche and shed light on how planets and rocky objects (including our Earth) are divided into core, mantle and crust.
The information will also answer whether native chemical building blocks affect life, or those delivered by comets and asteroids.
“If the planets can get everything they need from water and carbon in the natural process of accretion, and they do not need any late additions, then each planet should be rocky and habitable,” Elkins-Tanton comments.
If Psyche is not the core of a dead planet, then it is something more strange: a body assembled in a part of the inner solar system, so rich in metals that it does not have room for a stone and its dimensions have not increased. “That is, from a chemical and physical point of view, this sounds plausible, but we have no samples and no evidence that such an object can exist,” she says. - “I hope that we will get there and will be able to consider this magnificent world”.
Equipped with a multitude of cameras, magnetometers and a gamma-neutron spectrometer, the probe will collect data to understand what Psyche is: the main or primary object, whether it once had a magnetic field, and whether there are rocks from her destroyed subsequent impacts.
There is no chance that samples will be delivered with this flight, but future missions could make a stopping point (water and fuel) for Psyche to travel to Mars and beyond.
Solar electromotor apparatus is planned to be sent in 2023. His trip will last 4.5 years, and it will take 20 months to complete the main task.