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Space The Almighty Buck

Planetary Resources To Build Crowdfunded Public Space Telescope 60

kkleiner writes "Planetary Resources, the company that set its sights on mining asteroids, has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $1M to crowdsource the world's first publicly accessible space telescope. In an interview, co-founder and co-chairman Peter Diamandis stated that the ARKYD 100 telescope is a means of 'extending the optic nerve of humanity.' The company hopes that the campaign, which is supported by Richard Branson, Bill Nye the Science Guy, and Seth Green, will make an orbiting telescope available to the public to help schools and museums in their educational efforts to inspire great enthusiasm in space."
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Planetary Resources To Build Crowdfunded Public Space Telescope

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  • by HtR ( 240250 ) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @05:33PM (#43854629)

    > supported by Richard Branson, Bill Nye the Science Guy, and Seth Green

    My imagination can't comprehend what a business meetting or board meeting would be like with these three, but I bet it's awesome!

    • by HtR ( 240250 ) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @05:38PM (#43854671)

      Actually, I do have an image in my head.

      Bill Nye is on one end of the board room table with bubbling beakers and flasks connected with plastic tubes, Seth Green is on the other end of the table building obscene clay figures of celebrities, and Richard Branson parachutes in through the skylight.

      • I'm sure there must have been some discussion of sharks and lasers...
      • Not sure what Bill Nye's cooking up with those beakers and flasks, but I hope it's nothing more complex than Folgers coffee. The guy is a complete idiot when it comes to science and he shows his ass whenever he's brought in as an "expert" by the media.

  • A million for an orbiting telescope? Wouldn't that be more like a billion?
    • they'll spend a million talking about a space telescope

    • A pint sized space telescope with a 1-2 yr mission could probably be built for $1M. Maybe Brandson will launch it for free.

      • The design is somewhat similar to the ultraviolet/optical telescope on Swift. Swift's original cost was about $70 million, but it has a gamma ray telescope and an X ray telescope in addition to its UV/optical telescope. They can probably build the spacecraft and instrument fairly cheaply if they use off the shelf components. The expensive part is going to be the launch vehicle and the continuing ground support after launch. One million dollars is not going to be enough, but a few tens of millions of dol
    • They claim to have already designed and built the thing (and have some pictures of a plausible-looking prototype). They just need your hard-earned cash to actually put it into space and build the web portal, [sarcasm]because they forgot about that part in their original budget[/sarcasm]. I feel like the kickstarter page is a publicity stunt instead of a necessary fundraising tool. It's also terribly disingenuous of them to post Hubble images and say "you can take pictures of these" (which most people rea

    • Re:Billion (Score:5, Insightful)

      by femtobyte ( 710429 ) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @05:59PM (#43854815)

      The telescope itself isn't, in this case, a groundbreaking state-of-the-art super-expensive instrument. It's a reasonably nice 'scope by amateur astronomy standards, and the viewing from space is great --- but the main point of this project is education/outreach. For a million bucks, you can build a lot more capable telescope on earth (including a dark site location); but that might not have the awesomeness factor to eighth-graders as controlling a space telescope for their class project. If you want a space telescope with groundbreaking scientific capabilities that you can't get (at any price) from Earth, you might need $1e9 dollars; but $1e6 (plus a whole lot of free mission/design support that would get counted in the budget of a $1e9 project) seems reasonable for putting an "advanced amateur" telescope in space.

      • For a million bucks, you can build a lot more capable telescope on earth but that might not have the awesomeness factor to eighth-graders as controlling a space telescope for their class project.

        The direct view through an amateur's optical telescope on the ground is awesome in its own right --- intimate and affordable.

        • I personally agree. And, in my opinion, you could spend $1M to put together ~20 really high quality educational astronomy setups, truck them around the country, and bus students out from urban areas to proper viewing sites --- to give a lot more kids some really awesome hands-on work with a nice telescope setup. I think "getting pictures from a space telescope" would be more exciting to kids (at levels not advanced enough to appreciate much more than the "ooh, pretty" factor) than "getting pictures from a m

        • The company at the origin of this tries to leverage crowdfunding (in exchange for some observation time through a 'scope we all agree will be pathetic compared to the same amount spent on ground) because they need many such small 'telescope-sats' to perform their primary goal: detecting asteroids.
          There are various ways to perform this from space, but all revolves around having *many* observing microsatellites, the many viewpoints needed to reconstitute asteroid trajectories.
          And, for now, they only have *a s

      • by pavon ( 30274 )

        And to add to that, there already are a number of observatories scattered about which devote some/all of their time to educational and outreach. There aren't any space telescopes dedicated to that purpose.

    • no, no, no, NO, NO...
      Here, you've got to say it this way:

      one miiiiiiiilllllliiiiooooonnn dollars!

    • Well, I guess its more like "A digicam with tele lens and filter wheel mounted on a cubesat" then "real" telescope

    • This is probably more about getting people engaged in the process. The designs aren't really expensive though, and microsats don't cost as much as you might think to launch. They will probably wind up selling some of the tech they develop too. I think it's pretty slick.
  • I'm having difficulty figuring out exactly how much "public access" we can really get to something that is probably going to be in demand by a lot of people doing a lot more important things than my space-equivalent of a Google Street View tour of places I'm never going and know nothing about.

    • by femtobyte ( 710429 ) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @07:07PM (#43855413)

      They say "public access," not "free access" --- this'll be a pay-to-play "tourist attraction," with some time handed out free* (*paid by donations/grants, or the taxpayer as a tax write-off) for education/outreach. It'll be available "to the public" in the sense that anyone in the public can plop down a couple hundred bucks per snapshot from it (as opposed to needing to write a grant through a research institution). So you won't be getting any "Galactic Street View" time slots on this telescope unless you're willing to pay, which will limit the demand to the available supply.

      • You're making a big assumption here, femtobyte. When did I ever say free? My real concern is, how am I to be assured that the "public" won't get priced out of the deal? Especially if grant money intrudes and artificially inflates the market rate for such time. The astronomy "public" is more than a little influenced by government and deep-pocketed corporations, after all.

  • ... would welcome us as new galactic overlords.
  • Look at the people who are behind planetary resources: Chris Lewicki: President & Chief Engineer, Tom Jones: Advisor, Sara Seager, Larry Page , Eric Schmidt , James Cameron, Charles Simonyi, K. Ram Shriram , Ross Perot, Jr. I have a hard time giving money to millionaires and billionaires. Also I think that they are connected to Intellectual Ventures, one of the biggest IP trolls out there. Also if it finds a sold platinum asteroid for them to mine do we all get a share? Oh right that's just for the
    • Kickstarter is a slightly awkward fit for some of the uses it has been put to.

      For purely charitable purposes, having a 'the cash gets returned, not dumped into a black hole, if the project never gets off the ground' mechanism is really quite sensible. If Project X simply can't be done for less than Y dollars, it's extremely useful to have some way of asking for Y dollars; but freeing each potential contributor from the concern of 'Well, I'd give if I knew it were going somewhere; but if you raise less than

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @05:56PM (#43854803) Journal

    How much of a penalty, relative to the penalties incurred for things like small size, subpar optics, etc. does putting up with the atmosphere impose? (I understand that for certain wavelengths it's basically 100%, but this isn't an extreme UV instrument or anything).

    I'm told, by people more closely involved with amateur astronomy than I, that a 200mm aperture is a pretty small instrument, especially for reflector-based designs. How well would you expect it to perform compared to, say, a ~$10,000 device in some reasonably-non-light-polluted rural area(nothing heroic; but not necessarily within spitting distance of a major population center). A $50k? $100k?

    Obviously, 'in space' is sort of its own reward; but(because space telescopes have historically been built only when somebody with relatively deep pockets wants to attack a problem that they can't build a ground telescope for), I really don't have a sense of how much advantage 'in space' gets you compared to a much less design constrained piece of hardware that has to look through the atmosphere; but also didn't have to be launched into space.

    • Since the popularization of adaptive optics, the atmosphere has become much less of a problem. Before adaptive optics, you were strongly limited in how big a telescope would be useful for resolving power --- even on a perfectly clear night, atmospheric fluctuations would cause different parts of your big telescope aperture to see different areas of the sky, destroying any resolution advantage over smaller scopes (though you at least still got more light for a brighter blurry picture). But now, with adaptive

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Adaptive optics are good for resolution, but don't help with photometric precision. Getting above the atmosphere does absolutely help with that. See Kepler and MOST for good examples of this.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Ultraviolet light with wavelengths blueward of about 300 nanometers does not get through the atmosphere. If we want to see it, we have to go to space. And the ultraviolet is where some of the most exciting astronomy is happening right now.
      • They're looking for asteroids, likely best seen in the infrared.
        • Their camera works from the near ultraviolet to the near infrared. One reason for using the ultraviolet is that at some point Planetary Resources is going to want to take spectra of sunlight that reflects off an asteroid in order to get detailed information about the composition of the asteroid. Having access to the ultraviolet portion of the spectrum will be a big help for this. I am impressed with what I have seen of the ARKYD telescopes. Assuming that the specs on their Web site are correct (and why

    • How much of a penalty, relative to the penalties incurred for things like small size, subpar optics, etc. does putting up with the atmosphere impose?

      Here's Saturn [] as seen by ESO's Very Large Telescope [] in Chile (8.2m mirror, though it can combine 4 of them into an interferometer). The observatory is at 2635m above sea level, so is looking through about 70% of the air you'd be seeing through at sea level (air decreases in density with altitude, so there is diminishing returns for getting up high). The obs

      • by ah.clem ( 147626 )

        OK, so the fact that I can get a pretty good image of Saturn and a couple of it's moons with my 130mm parabolic short tube from my driveway in a light-soaked neighborhood in a washed out sky means I should actually be pretty damn happy. I'd like to step up to a 10" - 12" OTA but the GEM is stupidly expensive and I have little love for a Dob (imaging is my goal but man, what a budget you have to have...)

        Thanks for the pics.

  • Couldn't Branson just kick in the $1M out of pocket change?

    • Couldn't Branson just kick in the $1M out of pocket change?

      I'm pretty sure that you don't get to the position where you can do that by doing that if you could get somebody else to do it instead...

  • Anybody else read that as "confounded" telescope?

  • I remember a previous plan "to help schools and museums in their educational efforts to inspire great enthusiasm in space". We put Alan B. Shepard in a Mercury capsule, shot him into the sky and put it on the cover of Life Magazine. Worked for a whole generation.
  • Ok, it's not in space, and it's not actually kickstarter. But pretty cool none the less. []

  • This is a good start towards something new. I been thinking of something like this for a mars rover.

    All I see is people complaining why can't the reach people do it themselves.

    Well my response to that is, maybe they want to stay rich. Because if your not rich in this country you are a godamn slave.

    But that does not lessen the fact that this is the right step towards doing off planet exploration without the government muddling things up. Opening it up to everyone not just the elite top graduates of select un

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