Planetary Resources surpassed its $1 million crowdfunding goal June 19, green-lighting the asteroid-mining company’s plans to deploy a publicly accessible space telescope in 2015.

More than 11,000 people pledged at least $10 to the project, which promises to not only capture images of its supporters’ selected astronomical targets with the Arkyd space telescope but also photograph their submitted self-portraits on a digital screen mounted on the outside of the small satellite. 

“Thank you everyone who pushed it over the $1 million mark!” Peter Diamandis, Planetary Resources’ co-founder, wrote on Kickstarter, the website that is hosting the crowdfunding campaign.

It took 20 days to raise the $1 million. The company continued to take pledges through June 30.

Planetary Resources intends to mine near-Earth asteroids for resources such as water and precious metals, with the ultimate goal of helping expand humanity’s footprint out into the solar system. The company has designed its Arkyd-100 space telescope to search for potential target space rocks.

“Our primary goal has been to build technology enabling us to prospect and mine asteroids,” the company wrote on its website promoting the funding campaign. “We’ve spent the last year making great leaps in the development of these technologies. These advancements have presented us with the opportunity to engage in another passion of our team: to make space exploration accessible to everyone.”

Planetary Resources launched the crowdfunding drive May 29 during an event held at the Museum in Flight in Seattle.

For a $25 pledge, the company offered to upload a photo of the backer’s choice to the Arkyd, display it on a small digital screen mounted on the exterior of the satellite and then capture it in a photo with the Earth’s horizon looming in the background. The “Space Selfie” promises to be the first orbital “photo booth,” delivering digital images (or prints at higher pledge levels) to the supporters.

For pledges beginning at $99, supporters’ funds contribute to students’ and scientists’ research using the Arkyd. For $200, backers can opt to point the telescope at an astronomical target of their choosing. A $5,000 pledge buys the chance to identify a school, university or museum to receive observation time.

At the top level of support, $10,000 or more, backers are offered tours of Planetary Resources’ facilities, invitations to the Arkyd launch, the opportunity to etch their name on the space telescope and the chance to name one of the asteroids that the Arkyd is expected to discover.

Planetary Resources also lists “add-ons” to the pledges, including T-shirts and greeting cards printed with supporters’ astronomical or “Space Selfie” images, an Arkyd embroidered mission patch and a half-scale model of the space telescope.

With $1 million behind them, Planetary Resources announced “stretch goals,” including adding an additional ground station at $1.3 million, a digital “Beta Selfie” taken of each supporter’s self-photo during the space telescope’s build up at $1.5 million, and a $1.7 million “mystery goal” that the company says it will reveal when the campaign reaches 15,000 backers.

Ultimately, Planetary Resources wants to double its goal. At $2 million, the company will add the ability for its Arkyd space telescope to help in the search for alien planets.

“We’re not done yet,” Chris Lewicki, Planetary Resources’ president, said in a video released late June 19. “We have got stretch goals out there, the $2 million alien-hunter goal, where we turn the Arkyd into a planet finder.”


Planetary Resources Raises over $200K on 1st Day of Campaign