Often considered the harbinger of impending doom/the end of human civilisation in sci-fi films, asteroids can also be rich sources of iron, platinum, gold and other precious materials. Scheduled for 2021 and 2023 as part of NASA's Discovery Program, two missions will be launched to reach two asteroids named 16 Psyche and Psyche, respectively.
The first of the missions will explore a monolith made up entirely of nickel and iron, similar to the earth's core, so huge that at 210km in diameter it is being considered a minor planet. Located between Jupiter and Saturn in the Trojan asteroid belt, the mission (called 'Lucy') will take six years to reach its destination and once there will spend 20 months researching the asteroid.
The principle investigator of the mission, Harold F. Levison, has said, "Because the Trojans are remnants of the primordial material that formed the outer planets, they hold vital clues to deciphering the history of the solar system. Lucy, like the human fossil for which it is named, will revolutionize the understanding of our origins."
The second mission, launching in 2023 will reach its destination by 2030, an asteroid with an estimated iron content value alone of USD $10,000 quadrillion, determined by the mission's principle investigator, Lindy Elkins-Tanton of Arizona State University.
As global debt is USD $60 trillion, this asteroid could wipe out global debt with enough left over to ensure every human a comfortable lifestyle. Is it any surprise private companies are already lining up to mine asteroids?