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A Space-Based Telescope for the People Wants Your Support

An asteroid mining company wants your money to put a satellite telescope that you can control into space

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Planetary Resources president Chris Lewicki stands next to the Arkyd space telescope. Photo: Planetary Resources

In just a few short days, Planetary Resources, a fledgling space mining company, has raised more than $500,000 from the fine citizens of the world for their project to put a small space telescope into orbit around the Earth—one that would be controllable by regular folks down on the ground. With the telescope, a 200 millimeter orbiting telescope known as the Arkyd, you’d be able to take photos of the planet, of the stars, or of the other awesome things poking around in the solar system.

The team is looking to raise $1,000,000, and with 30 days left to go on their Kickstarter fundraiser it seems likely they’ll hit the mark.

The telescope’s big selling point for those not interested in doing planetary sciences is the option for you to take a “space selfie.” The Arkyd has a little camera pointing at a little screen aboard the telescope. With the selfie-cam, you’ll be able to take a photo of the screen with the cosmos as a backdrop. On the screen, you can display a photo, a graphic, whatever you want.

The project is being put together by Planetary Resources, a company whose main purpose is to mine asteroids for minerals. So, as cool as it is, the Arkyd kickstarter is sort of like paying De Beers to take you on a safari. Check out their slick promotional video:

According to the Economist, the relatively cheap $1 million price tag of the space telescope is enabled by a two trends:

The revolution has been made possible by two developments: the realisation of long dreamt-of nanosatellites that pack control systems, solar panels, scientific instruments, communications and computing gear into devices little larger than a mobile phone; and crowd-funding websites that turn the public’s enthusiasm for space into viable businesses.

Aside from taking space selfies, you can buy time on the telescope for schools and museums. Planetary Resources’ goal with the for-the-people telescope is to encourage enthusiasm for space research.

People care about stuff they can participate in,” says Peter Diamandis, co-founder of Planetary Resources. “Space for the last 50 years has been non-participatory. This is making space cooler and more fun.” The risk that fun might supplant function is something Mr Diamandis rejects. He is adamant that providing a “photo booth in space” will not detract from Planetary Resources’ primary aim of prospecting for minernal-rich near-Earth asteroids.

More from Smithsonian.com:

To the Asteroids and Beyond
What Can We Do About Big Rocks From Space?
International Space Station Cameras Will Bring Earth to You, Live, 24/7

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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