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We've seen the Arkyd 100 telescope before, Planetary Resources' impressively small asteroid-hunting machine that offers performance matching any on-earth scope (yes, even the really big ones on the tops of mountains) in a package that's about the size of a quarter keg of beer. Its length of 425mm fully deployed (16.7 inches) is absolutely dwarfed by Earth's current great orbital scope: the Hubble Space Telescope, which is 13.2 meters (or 43 feet) long. The space shuttle cargo bay could carry a single Hubble into orbit. If it were still operating, it could take a thousand Arkyd 100 scopes in a single shot.
But, of course, it isn't still operating, which is perhaps partly why Planetary Resources is looking for $1 million in earthly support. The extra-orbital mining company has turned to Kickstarter to raise a little early funding and to help get its first fully functional Arkyd 100 scope into orbit. If you jump in early, you can get your face in orbit too -- well, a picture of it anyway. More details after the break.%Gallery-189607%To be clear, it's an Arkyd 100 telescope named ARKYD for the moment (and yes, that is a Star Wars reference), but a Planetary Resources rep told us that the name would be changed to something chosen by the community before it lifts off sometime in 2015. Those who support the campaign at the $25 level will have the opportunity to get a "space selfie" courtesy of a small LCD on the side of the telescope with a camera pointing at it. The LCD will display your picture (or some other image you upload); the camera will take a photo of it with the globe behind; and ARKYD will email it to you so that you can prove to your friends that your earthly visage has, indeed, graced the heavens.
Higher pledges will let you actually schedule time on the scope for your own research -- or your own fun. Meanwhile, those who are philanthropically inclined can donate time for use by schools or other programs. The Kickstarter launches today and runs until June 30th. The PR is embedded below and you can read our full interview with co-founder Peter Diamandis about the launch for more information, but we'd recommend you hurry up and make your pledge before you crack that open. We wouldn't want you waiting any longer than necessary for your space selfie.
Insert your Press Release here!Planetary Resources Announces World's First Crowdfunded Space Telescope Campaign
Providing access to an advanced space telescope for students,
scientists and a new generation of citizen explorers
"Bringing space within reach"
Bellevue, Washington – May 29, 2013 – Planetary Resources, Inc., the asteroid mining company, has launched a campaign for the world's first 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.
Planetary Resources' technical team, who worked on every recent U.S. Mars lander and rover, will provide direct access to an ARKYD space telescope making space widely available for inspiration, exploration and research. "I've operated rovers and landers on Mars, and now I can share that incredible experience with everyone. People of any age and background will be able to point the telescope outward to investigate our Solar System, deep space, or join us in our study of near-Earth asteroids," said Chris Lewicki, President and Chief Engineer, Planetary Resources, Inc.
Using Kickstarter, a platform for supporting innovative projects, Planetary Resources has set a campaign goal of US$1 million. The company will use the proceeds to build and launch an enhanced ARKYD telescope with an external camera and screen for public use, provide an interface to allow public access to the telescope, and create a variety of interactive educational material. Any proceeds raised beyond the goal will allow for more access to classrooms, museums and science centers, and additional use by individual Kickstarter backers.
Peter H. Diamandis, M.D., Co-Founder and Co-Chairman of Planetary Resources, Inc. said, "When we launched Planetary Resources last year, we had an extraordinary response from the general public. Tens of thousands of people contacted us and wanted to be involved. We are using this Kickstarter campaign as a mechanism to engage the community in a productive way." Diamandis added, "In the last 50 years, space exploration has been led by national governmental agencies with their own set of priorities; and now we're changing the nature of exploration. We're developing the most advanced space technology ever made available to the public. Let's explore the cosmos together!"
Eric Anderson, Co-Founder and Co-Chairman of Planetary Resources, Inc. said, "Since the public announcement of Planetary Resources last April, the company has doubled in size, brought on key strategic partners, was awarded numerous contracts and is on track for its primary mission of identifying and prospecting asteroids within this decade."
Pledge Level Highlights:
· 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.
Sara Seager, Ph.D., Professor of Physics and Planetary Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said, "The ARKYD crowdfunding campaign is extraordinary. Not only does the telescope have the technical capability to increase our understanding of space, but it can be placed in orbit for an incredibly low cost. That is an economic breakthrough that will accelerate space-based research now and in the future."
Planetary Resources is joined in this adventure by a large group of campaign supporters including the Museum of Flight, Griffith Observatory, Liberty Science Center, Museum of Science and Industry, the Perot Museum, Virgin Galactic and The Planetary Society.
The campaign will run for 33 days and end on June 30, 2013. Detailed information regarding the campaign is available on the Kickstarter web site.
Planetary Resources, Inc. was founded in 2009 by Eric Anderson and Dr. Peter H. Diamandis. Our vision is to establish a new paradigm for resource utilization that will bring the Solar System within humanity's economic sphere of influence. The company will conduct low-cost robotic space exploration beginning with the Arkyd Series of space missions that will identify the most commercially viable near-Earth asteroids. These initial missions will assist the company in enabling the retrieval of raw materials from these select asteroids, including water, precious metals and more.
Planetary Resources is financed by industry-launching visionaries, three of whom include Google's CEO Larry Page & Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt; and Ross Perot, Jr., Chairman of Hillwood and The Perot Group; who are committed to expanding the world's resource base so humanity can continue to grow and prosper for centuries to come. Some of the company's partners and advisors include the Bechtel Corporation; film maker and explorer James Cameron; former Chief of Staff, United States Air Force General T. Michael Moseley (Ret.); and Sara Seager, Ph.D., Professor of Planetary Science and Physics at MIT. Members of the company's technical staff have worked on every recent U.S. Mars lander including Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity, and include other key non-aerospace and safety-critical disciplines. For more information, please visit www.planetaryresources.com.