Kickstarter has set off a number of interesting and innovative projects. Starting up companies and funding albums, movies and products just to name a few . For the first time, Kickstarter has fully funded a crowd sourced space telescope. Named ARKYD, the space telescope is meant to be used by the public to peer into space and study planets, asteroids and anything that can be seen by a 1-arc second telescope. The telescope will engage the public and allow private citizens to control what the telescope images.
While civic engagement is one part of project, there is another commercial component to the mission. Planetary Resources put together the Kickstarter project in order to secure crowd source funding for their long term goal, space mining. The company hopes to send up a fleet of these telescopes to study near-earth asteroids and pick out ones that could be ripe for exploration.
Another added bonus for Planetary Resources is the publicity of the Kickstarter project. Space mining is a new venture that has yet to be attempted and therefore may be seen as a risky investment for potential investors. Having the first space telescope come from crowd sourcing serves two purposes, Planetary Resources receives full funding for their telescope without having to seek out investors and the project works as a proof of concept . I’m certain that a successful launch will inspire investors to open up their pocket books for the chance of striking it rich with this new form of mining.
Beyond the ulterior motives, which they are very up front about, the ARKYD space telescope is intriguing and exciting. As a space nerd myself, I love seeing people become more engaged in space exploration. As NASA and US politics shift many aspects of the space program towards commercial endeavors, we are seeing the new ways these companies are finding marketplace avenues in an industry that intrinsically requires large dollar signs and has historically been all about scientific research and exploration. The future of space is looking more like Star Wars and less like Star Trek.
The main instrument on ARKYD is a telescope with 1-arc second resolution. The spacecraft will also be equipped with an external facing screen and a camera arm. Many of the Kickstarter contribution levels include an opportunity to have a picture or video of your choice played on the external screen and then captured by the camera as it orbits over the Earth. This is the closest the majority of us will ever get to being in space.
At the time this article was written, ARKYD reached its goal of one million dollars to launch the space telescope. They have loftier goals if they receive more funding by the time the Kickstarter expires. These include an extra ground link station at 1.3 million dollars and adding an exoplanet detection system to the telescope if they reach two million dollars. By the time you read this article the funding period for the project will be over, so you can see how it all shook out here!