Planetary Resources, Inc., the asteroid mining company, successfully completed its crowdfunding campaign yesterday to launch ARKYD – the world’s first public space telescope. Over the course of the 33-day campaign, the company generated support from more than 17,600 backers who pledged US$1,505,366 for the cause.
This marks the most successful crowdfunding effort for a space project and ranks the ARKYD campaign among the top 25 projects in Kickstarter history.
View the archived finale event from the Charles Simonyi Space Gallery at the Museum of Flight.
“We’re excited that the first public-use orbiting space telescope, the ARKYD, is a go for launch. Because of the 17,000+ people who backed this project through our Kickstarter campaign, we’re going to put a new tool for education and exploration into the hands of researchers, students and teachers,” said Peter H. Diamandis, M.D., Co-Founder and Co-Chairman of Planetary Resources, Inc.
Among the exciting events Sunday, Planetary Resources also announced that Sir Richard Branson has joined its core group of investors. Branson, the Chairman of Virgin Group said, “I’m excited to be part of the Planetary Resources’ team working on extracting precious minerals from near-Earth asteroids. The only way to truly explore our Solar System is to develop the technology and means to sustain our presence in space without depleting resources of Earth.” In addition to his support of Planetary Resources’ core mission to mine asteroids, Branson generously made his own campaign pledge of US $100,000 to back interactive programming to strengthen STEM education, thereby moving Planetary Resources closer to achieving multiple campaign stretch goals (detailed below).
The ARKYD is planned for launch in 2015, and with it education, science research and space exploration will be skyrocketed to new heights.
- Education. More than 2,000 campaign backers donated time on the ARKYD to education. Students from around the world, whether studying the Solar System in a 5th grade science classroom or writing a graduate thesis will be able to use the ARKYD to investigate the cosmos, search for potentially dangerous near-Earth asteroids, take photos of space and even make history with their own discovery!
- Photography. Nearly 16,000 campaign supporters will be among the first in the universe to take a Space Selfie. Photos will be displayed on the satellite’s external screen as it orbits the Earth. The ARKYD’s camera arm will take a picture of each supporter’s personal photo with the Earth in the backdrop and send the image back. This campaign has received the most money pledged for a photography project in Kickstarter history.
- Research & Discovery. There are thousands of institutions and researchers around the world who could progress scientific understanding with increased access to space telescopes. The ARKYD will provide a new, low-cost resource to enable advanced exploration and research. In addition to access, the ARKYD will provide for organizations worldwide, nearly 150 backers will use the telescope to make their own discoveries, controlling it themselves to take pictures in space.
- Making Space History. An additional 40 of the highest-level pledgers will be invited to the spacecraft unveiling and rocket launch. An elite 10 will have their name or message etched on the spacecraft – visible in every Space Selfie produced – and have an asteroid discovered by the ARKYD named after them (used internally by the company and also proposed as an official asteroid name).
Chris Lewicki, President and Chief Engineer, Planetary Resources, Inc. said, “As the Flight Director for the NASA’s Spirit and Opportunity Mars rover missions, and Mission Manager for the Mars Phoenix lander surface operations, I know first-hand the spectacular experience of exploring space. I’m incredibly excited to share this experience with students and citizen scientists everywhere.”
In the final days of the campaign, the following stretch goals were reached, delivering even more benefits to educators, scientists and individual supporters.
- US$1.3 Million — Downlink Boost: Planetary Resources will build a second ground station to double the rate of Space Selfie and astronomy data return and install this ground station at the site of an education partner.
- US$1.4 Million — The Beta-Selfie: This stretch goal doubles the photo experience for all who pledged at $25 or higher. These supporters will receive an exclusive digital Beta-Selfie taken in 2014 during the crucial integration phase of spacecraft build. They’ll become a part of the build and catch a glimpse of our clean-room squad hard at work.
- US$1.5 Million — Asteroid Zoo: Planetary Resources will team with Zooniverse to develop Asteroid Zoo, a platform to allow the public to find asteroids at home, and help train computers to better find them in the future. Scientists will use the public’s findings to develop advanced asteroid-searching technology for telescopes on Earth and in space, including the ARKYD.
Eric Anderson, Co-Founder and Co-Chairman of Planetary Resources, Inc. said, “The crowdfunded ARKYD telescope is for the people. Space exploration is now something that we all can actively join, not merely passively watch. People of every age and background will be able to explore and learn about the cosmos and make their own discoveries.”
Those interested in the ARKYD for their school, science center, research institution or personal use, and missed the ARKYD crowdfunding campaign, can visit the company’s web site for information on getting involved.