June 16, 2013
Have you ever dreamt of exploring space on your own terms? There are countless nebulae, galaxies, and planets out there just waiting to be discovered; space is truly the final frontier.
Planetary Resources, a startup asteroid mining company, took to Kickstarter to raise $1 million in the hopes of bringing your dreams to life. With their funds, Planetary Resources will build the ARKYD telescope: a space telescope accessible to the public.
The company, founded by Eric Anderson and Peter Diamandis, aims to establish a new paradigm that brings the solar system within humanity’s economic sphere of influence. Planetary Resources is also backed by high-profile individuals Eric Schmidt and James Cameron.
Aside from putting the power of space exploration into the hands of students, teachers, researchers, and citizen scientists, the ARKYD telescope is the first in a line of low-cost missions to identify the most mineral-rich asteroids near Earth.
“All mining operations that begin on Earth start with prospecting and exploration,” says Chris Lewicki, president and chief engineer. “Our telescopes will be that probe into space.”
Water, nickel, cobalt, and platinum can all be found within asteroids and would provide humanity with access to resources waning on Earth.
Since Planetary Resources can build their spacecraft at relatively low costs, crowdfunding seemed like a fantastic route to get the money they needed. Their campaign on Kickstarter saw 80 percent of their initial $1 million met after only two days. The funding frenzy actually led Planetary Resources to add a stretch goal of $2 million. If they can hit their stretch, the ARKYD would be outfitted with instruments for extrasolar planet discovery.
And individuals who donate to the campaign are not going to be left in the dust. On the contrary, Planetary Resources is offering donors a chance at involvement from taking a space self-shot to dictating the controls for the ARKYD, depending on how much money they give.
If this concept sounds foreign to you, I would urge you to strip away the element of outer space for a moment. Public organizations, like National Geographic, have been going on member-funded expeditions for years. The only difference with Planetary Resources is that they will not be going to South America or Africa; they will be traveling a road paved by NASA.
“Technology has gotten to the point where we can privately explore space,” says Lewicki.
Although, to be clear, the controls for the ARKYD are not going to be passed around to the public with a note taped to the joystick saying, “We want it back with no scratches.” Lewicki likens the functionality to that of planetarium software. Donors can send data, like certain sectors of the sky they want to look at, and Planetary Resources will take care of the hard stuff.
“I had the pleasure of meeting with Laura Danly, an astronomer,” says Lewicki. “And she was saying that if everybody in the world could look through the eye of a telescope, the world would change.”
The ARKYD offers the world that telescope to look through: change will follow closely behind.
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