Use-it-yourself orbiting space telescope in the works

Asteroid mining company Planetary Resources has launched a $1 million Kickstarter campaign to raise money to put a publicly-accessible telescope into space, and fund educational research.

Daniel Terdiman Former Senior Writer / News
Daniel Terdiman is a senior writer at CNET News covering Twitter, Net culture, and everything in between.
Daniel Terdiman
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Planetary Resources said it is launching a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the Arkyd, a publicly accessible space telescope. Planetary Resources

Planetary Resources, a pioneer in asteroid mining, announced today that it is planning to launch the world's first publicly accessible space telescope.

The company, led by X Prize Foundation Chairman Peter Diamandis, said in April, 2012, that it planned to prospect and mine asteroids. But today the company expanded on that mission, saying that it is engaging "in another passion of our team: to make space exploration accessible to everyone."

That seems to have been the impetus for the Arkyd, "a technologically advanced, orbiting space telescope that will be controlled by YOU, the crowd," wrote Planetary Resources on the Kickstarter page that it's using to try to raise $1 million to get the program off the ground.

Planetary Resources said it wants to develop inexpensive robotic spacecraft geared toward exploring and mining asteroids "within our reach." But before it can do so, it needs to put a fleet of Arkyds into space to locate asteroids suitable for exploration and possible mining. The company said the Arkyds would also give a jump-start to a series of educational and research applications.

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Thus, Planetary Resources said it has four funding goals. First, to provide students with access to space capabilities. That means, essentially, that anyone from a fifth-grader to a PhD student will have the chance to control the telescope. Second, the company wants to support additional research and discovery conducted by a wide range of institutions seeking more access to in-orbit space observatories. "The Arkyd will provide a new, low-cost resource to help observe distant galaxies, search for alien planets, and monitor the skis for potentially dangerous asteroids," Planetary Resources wrote on Kickstarter.

At the same time, the company wants to generate interest and excitement about space, and it thinks providing direct access to Arkyds can help with that. The first people to back the project on Kickstarter will be the first with access to the telescope.

And finally, Planetary Resources is hoping to give a voice to the worldwide community of space enthusiasts.

Though $1 million doesn't seem like much money, the company believes it can launch the Arkyd with that amount, as well as fund the development of a public interface, and other associated costs.

As of this writing, 339 backers had pledged $47,000 to the project.