July 2, 2013
Kickstarter Public Telescope Exceeds $1M Goal, Prepares For 2015 Launch
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Kickstarter has funded a variety of projects, from smartwatches to feature films, and now the company can add space exploration to its list of top-funded projects. Through the popular crowd-funding site, space prospecting company Planetary Resources was able to raise $1 million to build and launch Arkyd - a publicly accessible orbiting telescope."We're excited that the first public-use orbiting space telescope, the ARKYD, is a go for launch," said Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, co-founder of Planetary Resources. "Because of the 17,000+ people who backed this project through our Kickstarter campaign, we're going to put a new tool for education and exploration into the hands of researchers, students and teachers."
The project actually surpassed its initial goal of raising $1 million and went on to reach more than $1.5 million - allowing the company to add more features to the project.
Slated for a 2015 launch, almost 16,000 Kickstarter supporters will receive a picture of their submitted photo being shown on the orbiting Arkyd's exterior display screen with the Earth as a backdrop - referred to by the company as a "Space Selfie."
Almost 2,000 supporters who donated $99 or more will have time donated to educators and students on their behalf. The donated time will allow for classrooms to explore the cosmos and snap photos of asteroids or distant galaxies.
Higher learning and research institutions are also expected to make use of the public telescope. According to a statement from the company, about 150 backers "will use the telescope to make their own discoveries, controlling it themselves to take pictures in space."
Chris Lewicki, president and chief engineer at Planetary Resources, suggested the rewards of space exploration shouldn't be confined to the highest echelons of academia, government or business.
"As the Flight Director for the NASA's Spirit and Opportunity Mars rover missions, and Mission Manager for the Mars Phoenix lander surface operations, I know first-hand the spectacular experience of exploring space," he said. "I'm incredibly excited to share this experience with students and citizen scientists everywhere."
Funds raised over and above the $1 million goal allowed Planetary Resources to extend additional benefits to the project supporters - including a supplemental download site to speed the processing of photos and a second "selfie" taken of supporters during the project's build stage.
"The crowdfunded Arkyd telescope is for the people," said company co-founder Eric Anderson. "Space exploration is now something that we all can actively join, not merely passively watch. People of every age and background will be able to explore and learn about the cosmos and make their own discoveries."
In addition to being used for exploration and education, the self-described space mining company said it will use Arkyd to spot asteroids that are potentially dangerous or ideal candidates for drilling.
The company also announced that Virgin chairman Sir Richard Branson is now among its core group of investors.
"I'm excited to be part of the Planetary Resources' team working on extracting precious minerals from near-Earth asteroids," Branson said. "The only way to truly explore our Solar System is to develop the technology and means to sustain our presence in space without depleting resources of Earth."