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NASA planning mission to an asteroid worth $10,000 quadrillion

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 19/01/2017 Sean Rossman

NASA is sending a spacecraft to a giant metal asteroid that may hold the secret to how our solar system was formed. 

The fact-finding mission led by Arizona State University researchers is focused on the ancient, giant metal asteroid 16 Psyche. NASA wants to know whether the asteroid, thought to be made of iron and nickel, could be part of what was an earlier planet perhaps as large as Mars. 

This is an opportunity to explore a new type of world — not one of rock or ice, but of metal," Lindy Elkins-Tanton, Psyche's principal investigator said in a statement. "16 Psyche is the only known object of its kind in the solar system, and this is the only way humans will ever visit a core. We learn about inner space by visiting outer space."

Artist rendition of the surface of the asteroid Psyche © Peter Rubin/ASU Artist rendition of the surface of the asteroid Psyche While NASA has no plans to bring the massive asteroid home and lacks the technology to mine it, Elkins-Tanton calculates that the iron in 16 Psyche would be worth  $10,000 quadrillion, Global News reported. That's right, $10,000 quadrillion, as in 15 more zeros.

Scientists say the asteroid, named 16 Psyche, may have lost its outer core through a series of collisions. The Psyche mission, scientists believe, could shed light on how planets and other masses broke up into cores, mantles and crusts years ago.

Psyche launches in October 2023 and will arrive at the asteroid in 2030.

Psyche is part of the Discovery Program, formed in 1992 to explore the mysteries of our solar system. 

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