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From left: Vlogger Hank Green, Planetary Resources founders Eric Anderson and Peter Diamandis, and Planetary President Chris Lewicki announce the company’s Kickstarter campaign at the Museum of Flight.

Planetary Resources, the Bellevue-based asteroid-mining company, today launched a $1 million Kickstarter campaign for the world’s first crowdfunded, public use space telescope.

Naturally, you may wonder why a startup that’s backed by some of the biggest names in technology is asking the public for money.

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Planetary Resources co-founder Peter Diamandis interviews next to an Arkyd-100.

But at today’s 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.

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Planetary’s Kickstarter reached $100K in less than two hours.

Andersen brought up Microsoft, saying that ” even they don’t give away things for free.”

“They have a business, too,” he said. “We are trying to show that space is a business and an interest in space is a business. Rest assured our contributions to this campaign far exceed any amount that can ever be raised on Kickstarter. This is just a small part of that and we want to prove that the public is interested. If we do that, we are going to do amazing things together.”

So far, it certainly looks like people have at least a little bit of interest. The Kickstarter campaign launched at 10 a.m. PST and by noon, more than $100,000 had been raised.

Andersen was joined by his co-founder Peter Diamandis, Planetary Chief Asteroid Miner Chris Lewicki and Vlogger Hank Green today as the quartet discussed Planetary’s plan to put space exploration in the hands of, well, anyone.

“This is not your typical educational program like a math lesson or history lesson,” Anderson said. “These are the things that can literally change the course of a young person’s life. This is the thing they look back on 20 years from now and say, ‘Gosh, I decided to get involved in technology or space or science because I had the chance to be a real space explorer for a day.”

If the $1 million mark is met, the company will build and launch a customized version of its Arkyd-100 with an external camera into near-Earth orbit. Anyone will be able to use a special online interface to point the telescope and snap photos of objects in the Solar System.

If you contribute $25, you can upload an image of yourself that Planetary will capture with Earth in the background.

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“We need your support right now because we need to prove to the world that there are millions out there who want to see this happen and are willing to be apart of it and want to live in this future that we all dreamed about in Star Wars and Star Trek,” Anderson said. “We want to make that future. That’s what this is about.”

Anderson also added that if the Kickstarter proves successful, you’ll start seeing similar campaigns in all areas of technology. 

“People will look at it as a proof point,” he said. “The leverage of this campaign is far more than you can realize.”

In terms of what the first objects the Planetary team will look at, Anderson said he’ll point the telescope at Mars because “I’d like to go there.” Diamandis said he’ll look at Europa, while Lewicki said he’ll get a selfie because he “wants to see the hardware in space.”

Check out the Kickstarter page for more info.

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