Planetary Resources, Inc., the asteroid mining company based in Bellevue, Washington, completed its Kickstarter campaign on Sunday after a 33-day run that raised US$1,505,366 from 17,600 backers. The purpose of the campaign was to raise public interest in the company and asteroid mining in general by crowdfunding an Arkyd 100 space telescope that will be made available to the public.
According to Planetary Resources, this was the most successful crowdsourcing campaign for a space project and one of the top 25 Kickstarter campaigns. The end of the campaign was marked by a four-hour webcast from the Charles Simonyi Space Gallery at the Museum of Flight in Seattle.
“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,” says Peter H. Diamandis, M.D., Co-Founder and Co-Chairman of Planetary Resources.
In a related development, the company announced that Sir Richard Branson, who had already made a $100,000 pledge in the campaign, has joined Planetary Resource’s core group of investors.
Sir Richard says, “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.”
Backers of the effort to launch the Arkyd 100 telescope were offered a series of incentives, including being able to take self images of photos displayed on the satellite’s external screen, donating telescope time to educational institutions, using the telescope for private research, or having their names etched on the spacecraft.
Having reached $1.5 million, Planetary Resources says that it will build a second ground station to speed up downlinks from the satellite, double the number of “selfies” available to backers contributing $25 or more, and the development of an “Asteroid Zoo” that will allow users to trawl through terabytes of data collected by Catalina Sky Survey (CSS) and search for undiscovered asteroids from their home PC.