As NASA prepares to send a probe to Psyche 16—a metallic asteroid orbiting the Sun approximately 371 million miles from Earth—the space agency continues to find ways to ramp up public interest in the mission. Something that’s easy to do as Bloomberg estimates the rock’s worth about $700 quintillion. In the video below NASA offers a tantalizingly close-up animation of the asteroid, which feels a lot like an IMAX movie.
NASA recently posted the above mission animation to its YouTube channel. The space agency plans to send its eponymous Psyche probe in 2022. Although the asteroid is so distant from Earth it won’t arrive until 2026. (Psyche’s distance from Earth is constantly changing, but it’ll be closest to Earth in 2026.)
The animation from NASA shows how Psyche will approach the 140-mile-wide asteroid. We watch as the spacecraft arrives at the rock and then flies through its canyons like a mellow pod racer. Once again: shoutout to the first-person point of view that makes the video feel like a Disneyland simulator ride.
Toward the end of Psyche’s pass over the asteroid NASA reveals hunks of smooth rock studded with what appears to be gold. It’s a visual nod to Psyche likely containing a huge amount of the precious metal. Along with enough stores of iron, nickel, and possibly even platinum to make everyone on Earth a billionaire. And yes, we know the economics of actually bringing Psyche to Earth would possibly change that.
Perhaps the coolest aspect of Psyche 16, aside from the dreams of avarice it inspires, is the hypothesis that the metallic asteroid may be the core of a former planet. If that’s true it would mean Psyche will offer a chance to explore a planet core for the first time ever. And allow us to gain better insight into just how much precious metal is in our own planet’s innards.