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Planetary Resources space telescope needs your help to get off the ground

Private company Planetary Resource is trying to collect $2 million through crowdfunding to help build a space telescope which will be accessible to the public.
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By Andy Smith on
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1 of 9 Andy Smith/ZDNet

How the ARKYD telescope may look in orbit.
(Image: Planetary Resources)

ARKYD Space Telescope

Private space exploration firm Planetary Resources has launched a campaign that relies on crowd funding in an attempt to raise $2 million to get its tiny ARKYD space telescope off the ground and into space. The company, with backers that include Larry Page and Howard Schmidt of Google, plans to use the telescope as a tool for educators and individuals to explore the universe. Plus, the company will introduce itself for its ultimate goal: Travel to asteroids and bring valuable natural resources back to Earth.

Here's how the ARKYD space telescope works. After making a contribution for the telescope's cost, classes, schools, or individuals can request an image of an extraterrestrial object and have it taken by the space telescope. It's suggested that the use of Google Sky will help in making an image request. You can also obtain "space selfies" (see page 2).

The original goal of the campaign, which began on May 29 and will end on June 30, was to raise $1 million to help launch the ARKYD satellite, create a user interface, and fund an education curriculum. After having raised over $885 million with about three weeks to go, Planetary Resources has extended its goal to $2 million by the end of the month. The company said the extra cash will be used to fund better space selfies, add exoplanet search capability to identify planets outside our solar system, and enable "citizen scientists" to make new discoveries.

Planetary Resources was founded in 2009 by Eric Anderson and Peter H Diamandis, and main backers of the company include Google's Page and Schmidt, and Ross Perot, Jr of Hillwood and The Perot Group. Partners include film-maker James Cameron. Planetary Resources boasts an experienced technical staff, many of whom participated on NASA's Mars Lander projects.

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2 of 9 Planetary Resources

ARKYD space selfie

Planetary Resources hopes to boost its funding with "space selfies". A space selfie is described as an image taken from the orbiting space telescope that includes a photo of your choice with Earth in the background. You can get a space selfie by contributing to the company's space program. The bigger the contribution, the more space selfies. A normal "selfie" is a photo of yourself taken with a phone, camera, or other device usually at arm's length.

The amount of funding you give also comes with other perks. For example, $200 backers can point the telescope to any celestial body and receive a digital image of it. A $10,000 contribution will allow you to become an "Education Ambassador" to a school of your choice, get invited to Planetary Resource events, and have your name or message etched on the spacecraft which will be visible on space selfies.

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3 of 9 Andy Smith/ZDNet

A prototype of the ARYKD space telescope.
(Image: Planetary Resources)

ARKYD Prototype

The tiny ARKYD space telescope, which is named after Arakyd Industries from Star Wars, will be 200mm (7.8 inches) tall and 450mm (16.7 inches) wide. Its wingspan will be 600mm (23.2 inches), and it will run on 50 watts of power — about as much as a light bulb.

The telescope's lens will have a 200mm aperture with f/4 primary optic. The camera will have a 5MP sensor and feature image stabilization.

It's expected to be launched along with the cargo that goes to the International Space Station (ISS), and will be released into orbit from there. It will orbit between 300 to 450 miles above our planet — above the atmosphere, which gives any telescope a big advantage over Earth-based observers.

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Asteroids

The first goal of Planetary Resources is to mine valuable resources from nearby asteroids. The company said many asteroids contain resources from water to platinum.

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Asteroids everywhere

Thousands of asteroids that we know of are currently orbiting the sun, and about 9,000 of them are relatively near Earth. It's estimated that 1,500 are reachable from Earth.

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Prospecting

Planetary Resources plans to identify potentially rich asteroids, and then send robot-spacecraft to prospect for valuable resources.

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Swarm of spacecraft

The company plans to send its first mining mission to an asteroid that contains water, which can be converted into breathable air, radiation shielding, and rocket fuel.

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Asteroid capture concept

NASA plans to gain resources from asteroids on a grander scale. Unmanned spacecraft will be sent to a smaller asteroid to "capture it".

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9 of 9 NASA

NASA capture

After the asteroid is captured, NASA plans to bag it and drag it into an orbit near the moon, where it will be mined and its resources sent to Earth.

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