43 years later, new ways emerging to explore space

BELLVUE, WA (RNN) – On this day 43 years ago, Neil Armstrong took his first step on the moon, an accomplishment watched breathlessly by millions of people around the world.

Armstrong and his fellow crew member Buzz Aldrin made their mark on space, and it's possible you can explore too in the near future through a Kickstarter campaign from a startup that has asteroid mining in its sights.

Planetary Resources Inc. announced in early July it will start a campaign to help include the public in their galactic adventure and shore up their resources - which are already pretty substantial.

The company is backed by such big names as Hollywood director and deep-sea explorer James Cameron and Google co-founder Larry Page.

The company said in a blog post that it was "overwhelmed" with how much support it's gotten from the public and how many people have asked how they could get involved in making science fiction a reality.

"We are building the world's most sophisticated, high-tech, low-Earth orbit imaging spacecraft," Planetary Resources co-founder Peter Diamandis said in a YouTube video soliciting the public for Kickstarter ideas.

"These are spacecraft that we're going to use at Planetary Resources to identify near-Earth approaching asteroids, to actually find out which of these are coming close to the Earth and which of these have resources of benefit to humanity."

Although Planetary Resources has yet to release the specifics on what kinds of things people can get for contributing to their project, they have posted a number of ideas on their blog.

Among the ideas: the ability to take a high-resolution photograph from space of anywhere on Earth ("except the Googleplex," the group jokes in a blog post) or a celestial body, a scale model of the telescopes the company is building, a half-day controlling the satellite with the ability to take up to 50 photographs and invitations to the Planetary Resources Launch Party.

In a e-mail to supporters, the company also toyed with the idea of letting people inscribe their names into telescopes bound for the great beyond.

The company plans to send its first telescope into space within the next two years.

Planetary Resources has already signed up with Virgin Galactic's LauncherOne program, which will eventually send satellites from Planetary Resources into space.

In April, Planetary Resources announced it would be putting its mind-power behind making asteroid mining a reality.

Asteroids often contain such vital resources as metals in the platinum group that are used in catalytic converters, hydrogen fuel cells. The rarity of the metals on Earth mean they often sell for astronomical prices.

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