Bellevue company raising funds for space exploration project

BELLEVUE, Wash. -- A Bellevue company is promising donors a unique opportunity to do some space exploration, and even the chance to name an asteroid if they discover one.

Meteors and asteroids can be scary, especially if they hit the earth, as one did in Russia in February.

But for Bellevue-based Planetary Resources, there's money to be made by mining asteroids for precious metals like gold. As a first step, they plan to prospect using a 30-pound space craft called an ARKYD, which is a space-based telescope.

'We use these spacecraft as prospectors orbiting around earth to look out telescopically and find the most interesting asteroid," said Chris Lewicki, president of Planetary Resources.

But Lewicki and company co-founder Eric Anderson came up with an idea to get the public involved.

"This is a journey we want you to come with us on," Anderson said.

With much fanfare at the Museum of Flight, the company said if the public donates $1 million to a Kickstarter campaign, it will launch an Arkyd into space to be operated solely by donors, like a Hubble Space Telescope for the masses.

The ARKYD isn't as big as the Hubble and it doesn't offer the same resolution, but backers say it will be controlled by average citizens, and that's what makes it unique.

"If there's enough interest, we'll launch two or three of them," Anderson said.

Fittingly, beneath the wings of vintage aircraft, volunteers manned social media and Google Glasses to get the world out.

"This is the first time I, a normal citizen, can type a couple things in my keyboard and get a picture of Mars that I took, " said project supporter Zac Cohn.

For a $10,000 donation, an asteroid the Arkyd finds will be named after you. And that's not the only reward for donors. For $25, donors get a picture on display in outer space with the earth as a backdrop.

"The only way to prove it's something people want is to ask them for money," Andersons aid.

And if that money comes in, maybe some will use their telescope time to find a meteor before it hits the earth.

After just eight hours, nearly $250,000 had been donated toward the project. If the $1 million goal is met, the telescope will be launched in the summer of 2015.