Arkyd Deep-Space Telescope Crowdfunding On Kickstarter

Image via Planetary Resources

Want to boldly go where no man has gone before? Or at least boldly observe what few have the privilege of seeing? Planetary Resources is currently offering one of the most exciting Kickstarter campaigns ever to grace the Web. The asteroid-mining startup—backed by the likes of Google chairman Eric Schmidt, Bill Nye the Science Guy, as well as director and explorer James Cameron—launched the project on Kickstarter in hopes of raising funds to build the world’s “first publicly accessible space telescope.” But with 13 days to go until the project deadline, more than 100,000 backers have nearly met the original project goal, and Planetary Resources has announced a “stretch goal” of $2 million to equip the telescope to search for exoplanets.

Eric Anderson and Peter Diamandis founded Planetary Resources in 2009 with the goal of harvesting precious metals from asteroids near Earth. In fact, they plan to launch the Arkyd 100—the first satellite for asteroid exploration—next year.

“When we announced the company last April, we were shocked by the response,” Diamandis told PC Mag. “Many of those people wanted to know if they could use Arkyd to look for asteroids to study…So the first step we wanted to take was to make the Arkyd 100 available to the public.”

And that’s exactly what the Kickstarter project does. Using the Arkyd 100 technology, the campaign raised more than $200,000 in one day from backers who wish to receive a variety of benefits, including time for students and scientists time to observe space through the Arkyd 100’s main scope. With a pledge as little as $99, backers can “virtually join a research team as a citizen scientist contributor.” At the $450 level, backers can take three of their own observations with the Arkyd and turn their favorite shot into a large poster signed by the Space Explorations research team.

The goodies don’t stop there, however. At the $1,000 pledge level, backers will receive 2 tickets to an exclusive event in which they will  take a tour of the Planetary facilities. And for a $2,500 pledge, backers will be able to upload a 6-second video to be displayed into orbit (think “Contact”).

Those who want to support Planetary Resources but don’t have the big bucks to pledge needn’t worry. Pledges are accepted for as little as $10, and for $25 backers receive their very own space selfie—their own portraits placed on an image of Earth from the Arkyd satellite.

“Proceeds raised beyond the goal will allow for more access to classrooms, museums and science centers, and additional use by individual Kickstarter backers,” the company said on its Web site.