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A Space Rock Worth More Than Jeff Bezos?

16 Psyche might be “psych-ing” us after all

CK Kimball
September 16 2021
Psyche-16-Asteroid: Maxar-ASU-P. Rubin-NASA-JPL

Turns out Earth’s “Get Rich Quick” scheme may not work out after all. 16 Psyche, the asteroid discovered in 1852 and estimated to be worth $10,000 quadrillion, on closer examination might be no more than a pile of rubble.

In a study by the University of Arizona, published in The Planetary Science Journal in 2020, observations from NASA’s beloved Hubble Telescope indicated that the asteroid orbiting between Mars and Jupiter, where most asteroids are rocky or icy, appeared made up entirely of iron and nickel. It’s heavy metal, man. That estimated the value of Psyche, which is 140 miles in diameter or roughly the size of Massachusetts, around $10,000,000,000,000,000,000. That’s 70,000 times more valuable than the global economy. Enough to pay off the Global debt of $281 trillion roughly 35,500 times. Enough to buy and sell Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk (as a set) 25 million times. It’s a lot of money.

Asteroid-Psyche: Corby Waste-JPL

But now scientists have a different idea as they map out a plan to launch a mission to Psyche in 2022 with hopes to land on the metallic asteroid in 2026. Initially 16 Psyche was believed to be a 95% metal and dense, exposed core of an early planet that had never fully formed. This piqued the interest of researchers with the opportunity to study planet development at a core level. However, a new paper from the University of Arizona, also published by The Planetary Science Journal under lead author undergraduate student David Cantillo, suggests 16 Psyche is 82.5% metal, 7% low-iron pyroxene and 10.5% carbonaceous chondrite (or meteorite pieces most likely delivered onto Psyche via impact), as well as less dense that first assumed.

These new lower metal and density estimates lowers the value of 16 Psyche and, in fact, may indicate the asteroid is less of a hip, solid piece of orbiting metal and more of a dangerous, pile of rubble similar to 101955 Bennu – the most hazardous and well-studied asteroid in our solar system. 

But when the worth is estimated at $10,000 quadrillion, even a 15% drop is still a pretty good heist for the average planet Earth. But that just leaves one question: If a global economy can be devalued by an ancient space rock, did it ever have value to begin with? 



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