Planetary Resources, the first asteroid mining company, has just closed a Kickstarter campaign based around the launch of its first asteroid-hunting space telescope. Total amount raised: $1,505,366 from 17,614 people. It’s one of the top-grossing Kickstarter campaigns since the crowd funding site launched in 2009, and the top campaign concerned with space.

Planetary Resources, or RPI, made a splash last year (for instance in my August Popular Mechanics cover story) when it announced its plans to mine asteroids for precious metals and, that most precious resource of all (at least in space), water.

The team, based in the Seattle area, has been charging ahead building space telescopes meant to orbit Earth and hunt for asteroids. The first telescope, part of the ARKYD series, is to launch in 2015.

On board will be a video screen and a camera pointed at it and the Earth behind the machine. Anyone who donated $25 or more will get their photo displayed on the screen, and a picture of the photo taken with the otherworldly backdrop. Higher levels of backing will pay for telescope time for students and researchers.

Don’t worry if you missed the June 30 deadline for joining the campaign; PRI promises to open the door to more opportunities for your pixels to travel in space with a Kickstarter “grace period,” launching soon. Sign up for notification at

PRI’s Kickstarter campaign brings citizen science and involvement in space exploration to a whole new level. And this is only the beginning.