What are the implications of space travel?
Some of the more obvious ones come to mind: an ability to colonize new planets, or to find another civilization. But what about new minerals, or better yet, minerals in great abundance?
The idea that there are massive deposits of minerals in space, be they rare on Earth or not, is actually less an idea, and more a scientific certainty. In fact, there is an asteroid in orbit between Jupiter and Saturn worth an estimated 10,000 quadrillion dollars; the equivalent of 70,000 times the global economy.
Discovered in 1852, 16-Psyche’s worth was only recently appreciated with the use of NASA’s Hubble Telescope. An ultraviolet analysis of its composition, as stated in a study completed by the Southwest Research Institute’s Dr. Tracy Becker, indicated that the asteroid is made almost entirely of nickel and iron. Being 140 miles in diameter, that is one seriously huge chunk of metal.
But not all asteroids are like this. In fact, most are made of ice and rock. “We’ve seen meteorites that are mostly metal, but Psyche could be unique in that it might be an asteroid that is totally made of iron and nickel,” said Becker in a press release.
In the near-future, as soon as 2022, there may not be any space mining taking place, but NASA is planning on sending a spacecraft aptly named Psyche to study the peculiar asteroid more thoroughly. They hope to gain a better insight into what are known as proto-planets, or large asteroids such as 16-Psyche that are believed to be the ‘failed attempts’ at making a planet.
As Becker explains, “Earth has a metal core, a mantle and crust. It’s possible that as a Psyche protoplanet was forming, it was struck by another object in our solar system and lost its mantle and crust.”
With these sorts of findings, one cant help but think about how fundamentally changed society will be once humanity colonizes the solar system. To be able to mine merely one of these asteroids, let alone the others that we have yet to find, would negate the reason for any economy based on the acquisition of personal wealth.
Or, perhaps, at the very least, the worth of certain products will be changed. Items of extreme monetary value like gold, or diamonds may become nearly worthless as we discover that these seeming rarities are actually in great abundance throughout the solar system. And in the far, far future, what sort of treasures will we find outside of our solar system as we discover how to truly traverse the expanse that is the void of space?
Only time can tell. Until then, buying your girlfriend jewellery is still going to cost you an arm and a leg.