Asteroid mining co. launches $1M Kickstarter drive for public space telescope

Planetary Resources now has 30 days to raise $1 million for space telescope

plnetary resources

One of the companies that plans to mine asteroids in the future set a course for more immediate space exploration today by announcing a $1 million Kickstarter campaign to build a new space telescope.

Planetary Resources, said it wants the crowdfunded space telescope to provide "unprecedented public access to space and place the most advanced exploration technology into the hands of students, scientists and a new generation of citizen explorers."

[MORE: The sizzling world of asteroids]

Using Kickstarter, a public funding platform, Planetary Resources has set a campaign goal of $1 million, which must be hit in 30 days. The company will use the proceeds to launch the telescope, fund the creation of the public interface, cover the fulfillment costs for all of the products and services listed in the pledge levels, and fund the immersive educational curriculum for students everywhere, the company stated.

The pledge levels include:

  • Your Face in Space - the #SpaceSelfie: For US$25, the team will upload an image of the campaign backer's choice to display on the ARKYD, snap a photo of it with the Earth in the background, and transmit it to the backer. This space 'photo booth' allows anyone to take (or gift) a unique Space Selfie image that connects a personal moment with the cosmos in an unprecedented, yet tangible way.
  • Explore the Cosmos: Higher pledge levels provide students, astronomers and researchers with access to the ARKYD main optic for detailed observations of the cosmos, galaxies, asteroids and our Solar System.
  • Support Education Worldwide: At the highest levels, pledgers can offer the K-12 school, science center, university, or any interested group of their choice access to the ARKYD for use in interactive educational programming to strengthen STEM education worldwide. The full pledge list and ARKYD technical specifications can be found here.

[MORE: Can NASA, Air Force, private industry really mitigate asteroid threat?]

The space telescope is being developed by Planetary Resources and is known as an ARKYD 100 and is targeted at low-earth orbit. When it announced its asteroid mining business, the company said it would build 3 space telescopes - the ARKYD 100, 200 and 300 to gain intimate knowledge of asteroids and space.

Google executives Larry Page and Eric Schmidt and filmmaker James Cameron are among those bankrolling Planetary Ventures to survey and eventually extract precious metals and rare minerals from asteroids that orbit near Earth, the company said. Chris Lewicki, former NASA engineer is president and chief engineer of Planetary Resources. Peter Diamandis,  CEO and Chairman of the X Prize Foundation, is co-founder and co-chairman of Planetary Resources along with Eric Anderson.

[MORE: NASA: 19,500 mid-size asteroids around Earth, fewer than expected]

Planetary Resources, based in Bellevue, Wash., initially will focus on developing and selling extremely low-cost robotic spacecraft for surveying missions. Why mine asteroids? Planetary Resources said: There are over 1,500 asteroids that are as easy to get to as the surface of the Moon. Asteroid resources have some unique characteristics that make them especially attractive. Unlike Earth, where heavier metals are close to the core, metals in asteroids are distributed throughout their body, making them easier to extract. Asteroids contain valuable and useful materials like iron, nickel, water, and rare platinum group metals, often in significantly higher concentration than found in mines on Earth.

Earlier this year another company, Deep Space Industries said it intends by 2015 to send a fleet of tiny satellites, known as cubesats into near-Earth space to mine passing asteroids for high-value metals.

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