Picture an optical telescope, a really good optical telescope, and you have to think big. The most powerful consumer-grade models often stand taller than their operators. The grand, institutionally owned ones are hidden beneath giant domes above the clouds on mountaintops. The world's best, the Hubble Space Telescope, is as big as a school bus and sits out in orbit, while its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, will be roughly the size of a Boeing 737.
What, then, could a telescope smaller than a trash can possibly do? Quite a lot, as it turns out -- if you can get it outside of the Earth's pesky atmosphere, that is. Planetary Resources plans to take rocks floating aimlessly in the solar system and turn them into valuable commodities. But, before we get there, the company hopes to revolutionize space exploration in the same way that 3D printing and microfunding have revolutionized manufacturing. Planetary Resources co-founder and co-chairman Peter Diamandis chatted with us, telling us why the company made the unusual decision to put its first orbital optical telescope up for grabs on Kickstarter.
Filed under: Science