On May 29 Planetary Resources, one of two private concerns hoping to someday mine near-earth asteroids, announced plans for the first-ever crowdfunded space telescope, a venture that would allow private researchers to conduct space research using a private space telescope — and even display their photo above the Earth. As a necessary first step to locate and survey near-earth asteroids with potential for commercial use, Planetary Resources plans to build and deploy a fleet of telescope-bearing spacecraft, known as ARKYDs, for scouring the solar system. One of these will be dedicated for private use by educators, researchers, and other interested citizens, and will be able to look anywhere in space.
The ARKYDs will be significantly smaller than the Hubble Space Telescope, the most iconic and successful space observatory of them all. But they will all have much greater capability than earth-based telescopes, being hundreds of miles above the clouds, dust, artificial light, and other obstacles to deep-space viewing on the earth’s surface.
Planetary Resources’ vision is nothing less than to create civilian and student access to a domain of astronomy available up until now only to elite professional scientists and astronauts funded by public money. According to Planetary Resources, the ARKYD’s fourfold mission will be:
• To give students access to space capabilities — Whether studying planets in a 5th grade class or writing a graduate thesis, students of all ages will have the ability to direct the telescope and explore what interests them! We’re planning some exciting new educational opportunities just for K-12 educational programs.
• To support important research and discovery — There are thousands of institutions and researchers in need for greater access to in-orbit space observatories. The ARKYD will provide a new, low-cost resource to help observe distant galaxies, search for alien planets, and monitor the skies for potentially dangerous asteroids. Researchers at MIT, the University of Washington, and across the globe have shown interest in using the ARKYD to further their important research.
• To build excitement about space and all of its potential — The ARKYD is designed to be a fun and interactive experience that is accessible to anyone. This kind of direct access to a satellite is unprecedented. Our backers will be the first people in history to control a public space telescope!
• To give YOU a say — What makes this mission unique is that we’re putting control of the telescope in YOUR hands. You’ll get the opportunity to help decide which science centers and museums are the beneficiaries of ARKYD telescope time, what photos to take, and more. We’re putting YOU in control! By pledging toward this mission, you’ll receive access to our website and mobile apps allowing you to follow along with the progress of the satellite, sneak peaks at photos and videos, and get voting access to make your voice heard in the future direction of the satellite!
Click here to read the entire article.
Graphic: srceen-grab from Planetary Resources video