A Nearby Asteroid Contains More Than $11 Trillion in Precious Metals

More than the Earth's entire global metal reserves.
Chris Young
Illustration of an asteroid.Alexandr_Zharikov/iStock

New calculations show that one of two metal-abundant asteroids traveling near Earth may contain precious metal worth approximately $11.65 trillion, a report from CNET explains. That means that the space rock likely contains more iron, nickel, and cobalt than the Earth's entire global metal reserves.

The metal-rich asteroid is called 1986 DA and it was analyzed alongside another asteroid called 2016 ED85 in a new study published in The Planetary Science Journal. The paper claims that the two space objects could be "possible targets for asteroid mining in the future."

In the future, space mining could provide massive wealth here on Earth, as well as valuable resources for future space colonies. Last month, a team of researchers from the University of Arizona unveiled a concept for a swarm of rovers that could mine the moon for resources for future lunar colonies. Several asteroids have already been identified as potentially lucrative targets, including the asteroid 16 Psyche whose materials reach an estimated total net worth of $700 quintillion.

'Mini Psyches' provide insight into future space mining operations

The team behind the new study based their findings on spectrum analysis, a scientific method that analyzes the electromagnetic emissions observed through telescopes to decipher the properties of distant stars and planets.

"Our analysis shows that both near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) have surfaces with 85% metal such as iron and nickel and 15% silicate material, which is basically rock," lead author Juan Sanchez, who is based at the Planetary Science Institute, explained in a press statement. "These asteroids are similar to some stony-iron meteorites such as mesosiderites found on Earth."

Sanchez and his team believe that their findings might also provide a clue as to the composition of 16 Psyche, which is currently too far away from Earth for precise spectrum analysis — though it is estimated to contain $700 quintillion worth of precious metals, NASA will send a mission to the space rock to remove all doubt. The researchers dubbed the two asteroids in their studies "mini Psyches" as they provide insight into the types of asteroids that might one day be targets of space mining operations. 

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