US technology company Planetary Resources has raised more than $1m on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter to build ARKYD, which it describes as "the first publicly accessible space telescope".
The telescope is part of the company's wider ambition to prospect and mine asteroids. More than 12,800 people have pledged between $10 and $10,000 (£6,500) to the campaign, which has hit its fundraising target with nine days to run.
Those who pledged more than $25 will get rewards including "space selfies" – photographs taken from the orbiting telescope showing an image of their choice with the Earth as the background.
As with other Kickstarter campaigns, the rewards increase for higher amounts. People pledging $200 or more will be able to point the telescope at any celestial object – "other than the Sun" – and have a high-definition image sent to them. Those pledging $5,000 or more will be invited to launch events and have their names etched on the spacecraft.
"The ARKYD is designed to be a fun and interactive experience that is accessible to anyone. This kind of direct access to a satellite is unprecedented. Our backers will be the first people in history to control a public space telescope," the company's Kickstarter pitch says.
The firm, based in Bellevue, Washington, wants to launch a fleet of telescopes to identify suitable asteroids, while also working with museums and schools to let non-astronomers use them.
The company was founded in 2009, and its financial backers include Google's chief executive, Larry Page, and executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, as well as billionaire businessman Ross Perot Jr.
"We're now focusing on enhancing the capabilities of the telescope and creating meaningful and epic crowd involvement," said Planetary Resources' co-chairman Peter Diamandis.
"We're a hardware and inspiration company, and we're thrilled to provide a new generation of space pioneers with the ability to take a hands-on approach to exploration."
The company says the $1m will be used to launch the first ARKYD satellite into space, support it over its lifetime, develop the user interface required to enable the general public to access and control the satellite, and fund educational materials for use in schools.
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