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A privately owned asteroid mining firm, backed in part by Google Inc's founders, launched a crowd-funding project on Wednesday to gauge public interest in a small space telescope that could serve as a backdrop for personal photographs, officials said.
Planetary Resources, based in Bellevue, Washington, plans to build and operate telescopes to hunt for asteroids orbiting near Earth and robotic spacecraft to mine them for precious metals, water and other materials.
It also plans an educational and outreach program to let students, museums, armchair astronomers and virtual travelers share use of a telescope through an initiative on Kickstarter, a website used to raise funds for creative projects.
Planetary Resources aims to raise $1 million by June 30 to assess public appetite for participating in a space project. It expects to launch its first telescope in 2015.
For a pledge of $25, participants can make use of a "space photo booth" by sending a picture to be displayed like a billboard on the side of the telescope with Earth in the background. Its image would then be snapped by a remote camera and transmitted back.
Starting at $200, participants can use the telescope to look at an astronomical object.