Asteroid mining company launches campaign for public space telescope

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SEATTLE - An asteroid mining company has launched a campaign for the world’s first crowd-funded space telescope to provide public access to space.

Planetary Resources Inc. announced Wednesday it plans to launch an extra space telescope in early 2015 to be used by the general public to take pictures of their favorite constellations, or to do their own research for the benefit of the world.

The company said it will provide direct access to a commercial space telescope.

 “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 at Planetary Resources.

The company has set a campaign goal of $1 million using the fundraising site Kickstarter.  People who want to join the operation will have to contribute.  For instance, for $200 a member of the public can aim the telescope once and take a picture. For $450, they can take three pictures. 

People also can pay more and donate their telescope time to school children or professional researchers.

Planetary Resources said it 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 a curriculum for students.

Planetary Resources’ campaign supporters include the Museum of Flight, Griffith Observatory, Liberty Science Center, Museum of Science and Industry, Perot Museum of Nature and Science, Virgin Galactic and The Planetary Society.

Bill Nye the Science Guy, CEO of The Planetary Society noted, "It's a fantastic convergence of spacecraft technology and crowd-funding. Students everywhere can get involved, around the world and now, above the world."

The campaign will run for 33 days and end on June 30. 

Planetary Resources co-founder Peter Diamandis said the company hopes schools and science museums will be the primary beneficiaries of the project.

Those who wish to pledge their support can do so here: http://bit.ly/ARKYD-100