Planetary Resources Kickstarter Campaign Takes Off

In what is already turning out to be one of the more fascinating space oriented crowdsourcing efforts yet seen, Planetary Resources introduced what amounts to a public access prototype of its planned Arkyd space telescopes at a press conference yesterday.   The broadcast started late, was horribly garbled, and at times seemed more like the sort of timeshare seminar than what was billed to be an event that would forever change the way we explore space.

Furthermore, as Marcia Smith points out at spacepolicyonline, the website itself is less than clear regarding exactly what the participant is getting in exchange for their contribution.  Also as Doug Messier seemed to suggest in the title to his story on, “Billionaire Backed Asteroid Mining Company Solicits Money From “Everyday Folks” to Build Telescope” there is something a little odd trolling for donations from the “average joe” when company is backed by some of the wealthiest people on the planet.  It is hard to disagree with the point.  If anything, Planetary Resources competitor Deep Space Industries, which does not appear to have anywhere near the potential level of initial investor funding might have seemed a more appropriate source for such an appeal.  But, when afforded the opportunity and presented in the right way, the “average joe,”  at least the ones who already have a baseline interest in space, want to participate just as much as the billionaires  who are driving much of the NewSpace revolution.

So, only one day later, Planetary Resources’ Kickstarter campaign is already 1/3 of the way to its $1,000,000 goal to finance the launch and operation of a low Earth orbit telescope which will offer individuals, groups and classrooms the ability to select targets for study, as well as take “selfie” shots which show a user’s self-supplied image displayed on a monitor against the backdrop of space, (or Earth as seen from space.)  At the current rate, and with donations averaging just over $100 per person,  it doesn’t appear as though Planetary Resources will have any trouble reaching its goal.

Surely, Golden Spike is looking at this and thinking “what the hell? ” after its Indiegogo campaign flopped miserably. No doubt the PhD theses are already being drawn up, but one early guess as to why one failed and another is succeeding, Planetary Resources campaign is offering a measure of ownership, even if it is literally in the timeshare sense of the word.  It is also offering the ability to personalize the experience in a way that connects to the social media regime in which it was introduced. The Golden Spike campaign on the other hand, offered the opportunity to help fund a marketing campaign, with the rewards being mostly impersonal (outside of thank you note, which is just being polite) until donors reached the $1000 level.  

We are only at the very beginning of the revolution, or more properly, evolution taking place within NewSpace itself, in which crowdsourced funding is rising up to take its place alongside wealthy individuals, angel investors and private equity in fueling the expansion of space commerce, and no doubt there will continue to be as many misses as hits along the way, but the potential should not be underestimated.  After watching the current success being enjoyed by Planetary Resources, it will be interesting to see if Golden Spike, which now has something a little more concrete to offer in terms of its “Pumpkin” lunar lander design,  attempts to re-launch their effort on the basis of lessons learned.

The Planetary Resources Kickstarter campaign is here.

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