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Crowdfunded telescope puts your photo in space

Crowdfunded telescope puts your photo in space

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — For just $25, you can go to space … sort of. Planetary Resources launched a Kickstarter campaign on Wednesday for “the first publicly accessible space telescope,” and backers will be able to use it in a variety of ways.

Planetary Resources, an asteroid mining company, ultimately wants to build a fleet of Arkyd telescopes that can find asteroids — then launch robotic spacecraft that can mine those asteroids for raw materials like precious metals and water.

To garner interest in its mission, the first Arkyd is focused on education and public access. In order to get that first telescope into space in 2015, the company wants to raise $1 million on Kickstarter by June 30.

A donation of $25 scores a backer a “space selfie,” in which a user sends in a picture to be uploaded to a screen on the side of the telescope. The company then snaps a photo of the picture with the telescope and Earth in the background.

Other rewards: Giving $200 allows the donor to point the Arkyd at any celestial object. For $1,000, backers will get a tour of the company’s Bellevue, Wash., facilities. Support for various education initiatives is available for a few thousand dollars, depending on the project.

As of midday Thursday, the company had already raised more than $380,000.

That kind of interest has been evident since Planetary Resources was founded last year, company founder Peter Diamandis said in a press release.

“[W]e had an extraordinary response …. Tens of thousands of people contacted us and wanted to be involved,” he said. “We are using this Kickstarter campaign as a mechanism to engage the community in a productive way.”

Diamandis wants to move space exploration away from “national governmental agencies with their own set of priorities,” he added. Diamandis is also the founder of the X Prize Foundation, which awards millions for innovations in fields including private spaceflight.

Planetary Resources’ mission has attracted high-profile backers including Google’s Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, and Ross Perot, Jr., the son of the former presidential candidate. Company advisers include filmmaker James Cameron and former U.S. Air Force chief of staff Michael Moseley.

According to the company, members of its technical staff have worked on every recent U.S. Mars robotic rover including Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity.

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