Planetary Resources set to crowdsource satellite telescope observation

If you haven’t heard of Planetary Resources yet, it’s a billionaire-backed team of NASA engineers and space tourism entrepreneurs that want to mine near-earth asteroids for valuable resources. Oh, and along the way it looks like they are set to make an unfettered view of the cosmos more accessible than it has ever been in history.

Just a couple days after delivering a keynote address at the OCE Discovery conference in Toronto, Planetary Resources co-founder and co-chairman Peter Diamandis and other members of his team looking to monetize rocks flying through space will host a star-studded event  at Seattle’s Museum of Flight. Flanked by celebrities including Richard Branson, Seth Green, Brent Spiner, Robert Picardo, and Bill Nye the Science Guy, the firm will announce how it plans to change the way humanity observes the cosmos.

The live event starts at 1:00 PM ET and will also be streamed live (we’re looking to get the details of that). According to Planetary Resources’ press release the even will “give students, teachers and the public access to the most innovative space observation technology ever built” and how that technology “will be controlled by students around the world to explore the cosmos.”

It goes on to elucidate about how the general public will be able to directly participate in the firm’s bid to mine asteroids. While details are held back so the firm will still have something left to wow us with at the event, it’s likely Planetary Resources is about to announce what equates to a time-sharing plan for inexpensive telescopes in orbit.

A recent Google+ Hangout event with Planetary Resources revealed its plans to put its first spacecraft into orbit by this time next year. Described as “cubesats” the Arkyd-3 satellites will contain some of the instrumentation for the larger Arkyd-100 scouts. The first phase of the mission will be all about cherry-picking asteroids that serve as good prospects for mining by future, more advanced satellites that will be able to capture and drill into the rocks. The Arkyd-100 satellites will be able to interchangeably be pointed towards space to spot those asteroids, or towards earth for terrestrial inspection.

Eventually, Planetary Resources will use satellites to prospect asteroids for mining.

To fund its conquest of space resources, Planetary Resources looks ready to embark on a crowdfunding campaign with a very attractive incentive. With the time that its not using its cubesats for its own designs, it could sell off that time to the public to do space or earth observation of their own. Backyard astronomers everywhere would scramble to book time for the precision telescopes unhindered by the earth’s atmosphere. Astronomy often requires the need to observe a specific section of the sky at the same time on a consistent basis. So Planetary Resources could parcel out a 24-hour schedule for its cubesats on a monthly or even yearly basis.

Not only that, once the live data is recorded, that record could be posted online (perhaps via a Google-facilitated solution, as Larry Page and Eric Schmidt are investors) and potentially resold at a less expensive rate, or just given away for free to attract more interest.

Planetary Resources is acting like a startup firm that’s about to embark on a crowdfunding campaign to fund its initial product. Hosting public Web casts, wooing media attention, putting forward celebrity endorsements, and even recruiting a team of volunteer community advocates.

It’s put out a public call to apply to its Planetary Community Vanguards community. Its 50 members will likely be involved in social media promotion activities for the firm, as the application form asks questions to determine an applicant’s social media reach.

Brian Jackson
Brian Jackson
Editorial director of IT World Canada. Covering technology as it applies to business users. Multiple COPA award winner and now judge. Paddles a canoe as much as possible.

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