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NASA is launching a mission to a gigantic hunk of space metal which is worth so much money that if we even brought a bit back our entire world economy would collapse.

The Psyche mission is set to launch in 2023 – and will target a metal-rich asteroid known as 16 Psyche, which one scientist says could be worth £8,000 quadrillion.

Psyche principal investigator Lindy Elkins-Tanton of Arizona State University in Tempe said that the 124-mile wide asteroid would be worth the – ahem – astronomical sum if we could somehow drag it back to Earth, the Daily Star reports.

That’s currently impossible.

Elkins Tanton said, ‘Even if we could grab a big metal piece and drag it back here … what would you do? Could you kind of sit on it and hide it and control the global resource – kind of like diamonds are controlled corporately – and protect your market? What if you decided you were going to bring it back and you were just going to solve the metal resource problems of humankind for all time? This is wild speculation obviously.’

Credit: Arizona State University/NASA
Credit: Arizona State University/NASA

The Psyche mission will explore one of the most intriguing targets in the main asteroid belt – a giant metal asteroid, known as 16 Psyche, about three times farther away from the sun than is the Earth.

This asteroid measures about 130 miles in diameter and, unlike most other asteroids that are rocky or icy bodies, is thought to be comprised mostly of metallic iron and nickel, similar to Earth’s core.

Scientists wonder whether Psyche could be an exposed core of an early planet that could have been as large as Mars, but which lost its rocky outer layers due to a number of violent collisions billions of years ago.

The mission will help scientists understand how planets and other bodies separated into their layers – including cores, mantles and crusts – early in their histories.