NASA to Explore an Asteroid Containing Enough Mineral Wealth to Collapse the World Economy

This mission will also help us better understand the core of our and other terrestrial planets, too. 

 

We think of asteroids as giant useless rocks floating around space. Perhaps it’s a good place to hide the Millennium Falcon or a worrisome cause of a cataclysmic event. Though most are hunks of rock or ice, some are replete with iron, platinum, gold, and other precious minerals. Two NASA missions plan to explore such an asteroid, scheduled for 2021 and 2023. These are part of NASA’s Discovery Program, a class of mission considered inexpensive, capping out at $450 million apiece.


Scientists will first launch a robotic spacecraft named Lucy in October 2021. The plan is to reach a Massachusetts-size asteroid, named 16 Psyche, which is made up almost entirely of nickel and iron—much like the Earth’s core. Scientists say this metallic monolith is so enormous, it’s considered a minor planet. Psyche is about 130 miles (210 km.) in diameter. It’s located in the Trojan asteroid belt, between Jupiter and Saturn.

This kind of asteroid has never been studied before, according to Thomas Zurbuchen. He’s the associate administrator at NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. "This is what Discovery Program missions are all about,” Zurbuchen said, “boldly going to places we've never been to enable groundbreaking science." Lucy will take six years to get there. Once it’s arrived, it will spend 20 months mapping and studying the asteroid.

The Eros asteroid. Psyche's mission is set to launch an entire new industry which could target bodies like this one, nearby Earth. 

Jupiter has two groups of asteroids caught in its orbit. It takes the gas giant 12 years to travel around the sun, with a parade of asteroids leading it, and another trailing behind. Lucy will reach Jupiter’s asteroid belt by 2025. Over the course of eight years, it will study six Trojan asteroids in all. By examining the target asteroid 16 Psyche carefully, NASA researchers believe they can peak back billions of years, to a time shortly after the sun's birth.

Harold F. Levison is principal investigator of the Lucy mission. He hails from the Southwest Research Institute in Colorado. Levison said, "Because the Trojans are remnants of the primordial material that formed the outer planets, they hold vital clues to deciphering the history of the solar system. Lucy, like the human fossil for which it is named, will revolutionize the understanding of our origins." 16 Psyche may be a piece of an ancient protoplanet once as big as Mars, which shattered into pieces over billions of years, due to bombardments and collisions with other bodies, a common occurrence after the birth of our solar system. Today, it’s sort of an astronomical fossil.

Another robotic spacecraft named Psyche will follow in October 2023. After an Earth gravity assist maneuver in 2024, it will shoot past Mars in 2025, and reach the asteroid by 2030. Scientists from Arizona State University will collaborate with NASA on this mission. Lindy Elkins-Tanton of ASU is its principal investigator.

See a short segment about the mission here:

She said, "16 Psyche is the only known object of its kind in the solar system, and this is the only way humans will ever visit a core.” This could give us insight not only about our own planet, but of other terrestrial or rocky planets, such as Venus, Mars, and Mercury. But besides the scientific value, such explorations are on the brink of launching an entire new industry. Elkins-Tanton has estimated the value of the asteroid’s iron content alone at approximately $10,000 quadrillion. That’s to say nothing of the gold, copper, and platinum to be found.

The value of this asteroid alone could wipe out global debt, $60 trillion, and leave enough left over to give every human on the planet a comfortable lifestyle, or conversely, cause the collapse of the world economy and send us hurdling back to the Dark Ages. Take your pick. Elkins-Tanton suggested dragging back a hunk and doling it out little by little, but also played with the idea of solving mineral scarcity for all-time.

Meanwhile, private companies are already lining up to mine asteroids, and Congress has passed The Asteroid Act to codify the practice. Nearly 10,000 asteroids nearby Earth have startling mineral potential. And as the outspreading of smartphones, computers, and other technologies continues, globally, the demand for such minerals will only become greater and the lure of asteroid mining, much more powerful.

To learn more about the coming economic boon in asteroid mining, click here: 

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Political division is nothing new. Throughout American history there have been numerous flare ups in which the political arena was more than just tense but incideniary. In a letter addressed to William Hamilton in 1800, Thomas Jefferson once lamented about how an emotional fervor had swept over the populace in regards to a certain political issue at the time. It disturbed him greatly to see how these political issues seemed to seep into every area of life and even affect people's interpersonal relationships. At one point in the letter he states:

"I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend."

Today, we Americans find ourselves in a similar situation, with our political environment even more splintered due to a number of factors. The advent of mass digital media, siloed identity-driven political groups, and a societal lack of understanding of basic discursive fundamentals all contribute to the problem.

Civil discourse has fallen to an all time low.

The question that the American populace needs to ask itself now is: how do we fix it?


Discursive fundamentals need to be taught to preserve free expression

In a 2017 Free Speech and Tolerance Survey by Cato, it was found that 71% of Americans believe that political correctness had silenced important discussions necessary to our society. Many have pointed to draconian university policies regarding political correctness as a contributing factor to this phenomenon.

It's a great irony that, colleges, once true bastions of free-speech, counterculture and progressiveness, have now devolved into reactionary tribal politics.

Many years ago, one could count on the fact that universities would be the first places where you could espouse and debate any controversial idea without consequence. The decline of staple subjects that deal with the wisdom of the ancients, historical reference points, and civic discourse could be to blame for this exaggerated partisanship boiling on campuses.

Young people seeking an education are given a disservice when fed biased ideology, even if such ideology is presented with the best of intentions. Politics are but one small sliver for society and the human condition at large. Universities would do well to instead teach the principles of healthy discourse and engagement across the ideological spectrum.

The fundamentals of logic, debate and the rich artistic heritage of western civilization need to be the central focus of an education. They help to create a well-rounded citizen that can deal with controversial political issues.

It has been found that in the abstract, college students generally support and endorse the first amendment, but there's a catch when it comes to actually practicing it. This was explored in a Gallup survey titled: Free Expression on Campus: What college students think about First amendment issues.

In their findings the authors state:

"The vast majority say free speech is important to democracy and favor an open learning environment that promotes the airing of a wide variety of ideas. However, the actions of some students in recent years — from milder actions such as claiming to be threatened by messages written in chalk promoting Trump's candidacy to the most extreme acts of engaging in violence to stop attempted speeches — raise issues of just how committed college students are to
upholding First Amendment ideals.

Most college students do not condone more aggressive actions to squelch speech, like violence and shouting down speakers, although there are some who do. However, students do support many policies or actions that place limits on speech, including free speech zones, speech codes and campus prohibitions on hate speech, suggesting that their commitment to free speech has limits. As one example, barely a majority think handing out literature on controversial issues is "always acceptable."

With this in mind, the problems seen on college campuses are also being seen on a whole through other pockets of society and regular everyday civic discourse. Look no further than the dreaded and cliche prospect of political discussion at Thanksgiving dinner.

Talking politics at Thanksgiving dinner

As a result of this increased tribalization of views, it's becoming increasingly more difficult to engage in polite conversation with people possessing opposing viewpoints. The authors of a recent Hidden Tribes study broke down the political "tribes" in which many find themselves in:

  • Progressive Activists: younger, highly engaged, secular, cosmopolitan, angry.
  • Traditional Liberals: older, retired, open to compromise, rational, cautious.
  • Passive Liberals: unhappy, insecure, distrustful, disillusioned.
  • Politically Disengaged: young, low income, distrustful, detached, patriotic, conspiratorial
  • Moderates: engaged, civic-minded, middle-of-the-road, pessimistic, Protestant.
  • Traditional Conservatives: religious, middle class, patriotic, moralistic.
  • Devoted Conservatives: white, retired, highly engaged, uncompromising,
    Patriotic.

Understanding these different viewpoints and the hidden tribes we may belong to will be essential in having conversations with those we disagree with. This might just come to a head when it's Thanksgiving and you have a mix of many different personalities, ages, and viewpoints.

It's interesting to note the authors found that:

"Tribe membership shows strong reliability in predicting views across different political topics."

You'll find that depending on what group you identify with, that nearly 100 percent of the time you'll believe in the same way the rest of your group constituents do.

Here are some statistics on differing viewpoints according to political party:

  • 51% of staunch liberals say it's "morally acceptable" to punch Nazis.
  • 53% of Republicans favor stripping U.S. citizenship from people who burn the American flag.
  • 51% of Democrats support a law that requires Americans use transgender people's preferred gender pronouns.
  • 65% of Republicans say NFL players should be fired if they refuse to stand for the anthem.
  • 58% of Democrats say employers should punish employees for offensive Facebook posts.
  • 47% of Republicans favor bans on building new mosques.

Understanding the fact that tribal membership indicates what you believe, can help you return to the fundamentals for proper political engagement

Here are some guidelines for civic discourse that might come in handy:

  • Avoid logical fallacies. Essentially at the core, a logical fallacy is anything that detracts from the debate and seeks to attack the person rather than the idea and stray from the topic at hand.
  • Practice inclusion and listen to who you're speaking to.
  • Have the idea that there is nothing out of bounds for inquiry or conversation once you get down to an even stronger or new perspective of whatever you were discussing.
  • Keep in mind the maxim of : Do not listen with the intent to reply. But with the intent to understand.
  • We're not trying to proselytize nor shout others down with our rhetoric, but come to understand one another again.
  • If we're tied too closely to some in-group we no longer become an individual but a clone of someone else's ideology.

Civic discourse in the divisive age

Debate and civic discourse is inherently messy. Add into the mix an ignorance of history, rabid politicization and debased political discourse, you can see that it will be very difficult in mending this discursive staple of a functional civilization.

There is still hope that this great divide can be mended, because it has to be. The Hidden Tribes authors at one point state:

"In the era of social media and partisan news outlets, America's differences have become
dangerously tribal, fueled by a culture of outrage and taking offense. For the combatants,
the other side can no longer be tolerated, and no price is too high to defeat them.
These tensions are poisoning personal relationships, consuming our politics and
putting our democracy in peril.


Once a country has become tribalized, debates about contested issues from
immigration and trade to economic management, climate change and national security,
become shaped by larger tribal identities. Policy debate gives way to tribal conflicts.
Polarization and tribalism are self-reinforcing and will likely continue to accelerate.
The work of rebuilding our fragmented society needs to start now. It extends from
re-connecting people across the lines of division in local communities all the way to
building a renewed sense of national identity: a bigger story of us."

We need to start teaching people how to approach subjects from less of an emotional or baseless educational bias or identity, especially in the event that the subject matter could be construed to be controversial or uncomfortable.

This will be the beginning of a new era of understanding, inclusion and the defeat of regressive philosophies that threaten the core of our nation and civilization.