while in a land Scientists wrestle with pandemic The damage from climate change, experts NASA They are trying to figure out how to get their hands gold nuggets in outer space. And the invasion will not be insignificant, since an asteroid has attracted the attention of the US space agency for a long time, Psychic 16Which would contain gold and precious metals with an estimated value of 10,000 quadrillion dollars.
An asteroid will pass near Earth today: the size of two football fields, and it will pass at a speed of 35,000 km / h
Needless to say, being able to grab space loot isn’t easy. as admitted John Zarnecki, President of the Royal Astronomical Society of the United Kingdom: “Just a theoretical estimate of how to extract gold from an asteroid in space requires 25 years of study.” But for NASA there are no impossible missions, and in fact it seems that it already intends to reach Psyche 16 as early as 2026. However, the first difficulty is related to the location in space of the gold “deposit”, and not actually at hand. “Most of the asteroids – explains Luciano Anselmo, a researcher at the Laboratory of Astronautical Dynamics at Isti (Institute of Science and Information Technology) of the CNR (National Research Center) in Pisa – are concentrated between Mars and Jupiter, in the following – called the asteroid belt. It is clear that These are very heterogeneous bodies, both in terms of size, as they range from a little less than a thousand kilometers in diameter to things that are practically stones, and above all in terms of chemical composition.”
These characteristics can make the project more challenging. “Information obtained at a distance through spectroscopic studies, studying the properties of the light reflected by these bodies – determined by Anselmo – allow us to get an idea of the chemical composition and sometimes also of mineralogy, that is, the minerals present on these bodies at least on the surface .”. Therefore, scientists are preparing to be able to go and find the gold found on the asteroid. It certainly could not be imagined that the opposite would happen and that in the meantime precious metals could fall from the sky. “Some asteroids can also cross Earth’s orbit – Anselmo admits – but it’s a small minority. There are many that penetrate the inner solar system. It is possible and has certainly happened in the past and it also happens on a smaller scale when meteorites fall on us, and then they are also recovered and displayed in museums.” But in this case there is no point in being under any illusions. “If there was clearly a goal of clear proportions to intercept our planet – warns Anselmo – then it would obviously be a very serious threat. This is part of Planetary Observation and Defense, which specifically has the task of trying to detect potentially dangerous objects and making sure there is a warning in case someone is on a collision course, in order to eventually try to deflect it over time. “.
Is it comfortable?
But to be honest, it will probably be necessary to calculate whether it is really worth going into space to try to extract the precious materials. “Space travel costs per se – reflects Anselmo – especially in the belt between Mars and Jupiter. In the not-too-distant future, the extraction of not only precious resources, but also other materials, will be beneficial if one needs to maintain human presence in deep space. But More than gold, we will actually need more important resources such as water, carbon and hydrogen, that is, materials that would be very costly to bring from Earth to space.” But even before anyone goes to Psyche 16 to search for gold, Isti Cnr scientists in Pisa are trying to solve an emergency that isn’t just terrestrial: getting rid of space debris. “The congestion of Earth’s space due to the objects that we launch around orbits makes it increasingly difficult to conduct space operations. We now have more than 40 thousand objects with dimensions greater than 5-10 centimeters around the Earth, and very often we have to do some kind of gymnastics to avoid collisions with abandoned objects We must try to mitigate the problem – as Anselmo admits – in order to ensure the continuation of space activities in the short term and in the coming decades.”
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