planetarykickstarter1Planetary Resources’ Kickstarter campaign started one month ago with some help from Brent Spiner, ended this past weekend with $100,000 from Sir Richard Branson and raised a nice chunk of change from more than 17,000 backers during the process itself.

planetaryresourcesThe Bellevue asteroid-mining company just finished one of the top-25 most successful campaigns in Kickstarter history, raising $1,505,366 from 17,614 backers that pitched in for the world’s first crowd-funded public-use telescope.

Planetary, which raised more than $100,000 in the campaign’s first two hours, will build and launch a customized version of its Arkyd-100 spacecraft with an external camera into near-Earth orbit in 2015, and anyone will be able use a special online interface to point the telescope to explore space. The 7,208 who pitched in $25 will be able to order a “selfie” of themselves that Planetary will capture with Earth in the background.

planetaryarkydPlanetary is already backed by some of the biggest names in technology and aerospace and is planning to send spacecraft into orbit to ultimately swarm asteroids to mine natural resources like water and platinum group metals. Naturally, you may wonder why a startup that’s backed by so many influential names is asking the public for money.

But at the press conference at the Museum of Flight announcing the campaign, the company’s executive team stressed the differences between Planetary’s business of mining, detecting and prospecting asteroids with what the Kickstarter campaign is attempting to accomplish: gauging public interest in a first-of-its-kind telescope like this.

“We’re not asking the public to contribute to asteroid mining — that’s our business,” said Planetary co-founder Eric Andersen. “All we ask for the public is to tell us that they want something. We are willing to do all the design, engineering work and we’ve put that on the table. But we’re not going to build something that people don’t want. The only way to prove that it’s something people want is to ask for money and set a value on things.”

Branson, who contributed $100,000 near the end of the campaign, has also joined Planetary’s core group of investors. One year ago, Planetary signed on to use Branson-backed Virgin Galactic’s LauncherOne rocket to put its Arkyd-100 telescopes into low Earth orbit.

Previously on GeekWire: Asteroid mining company Planetary Resources partners with 3D printing giant

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