December 31, 2013

Building a community of asteroid miners

Few aspects of building asteroid prospectors have been as fun as preparing to take 17,000 community supporters into outer space through their photos featured above our planet.  These “Space Selfies” will bring some serious class to the word “Selfie,” and the timing couldn’t be better.  After all, “Selfie” is Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year for 2013 and this month Mashable honored the ARKYD Space Selfie as one of the Nine Top Tech Breakthroughs of 2013 alongside Google Glass and the Oculus Rift.

But that’s not why Space Selfies matter.

I learned the real “why” while working alongside my fellow founders, advisors and investors – people who have created new industries at Google, 3D Systems, Bechtel, and Virgin to name a few.  All find asteroid mining compelling and wish to play their part while they press forward on equally brazen ventures: self-driving cars, additive manufacturing, even nuclear fusion.

What I’ve learned from them is that you can’t disrupt antiquated ways of doing without some key ingredients: a sound technical foundation, an economic engine, a path to political support, and….community.  

Space Selfies are our first foray into bringing with us not just the commercial space community, but the global public.  We’ve got a lot of work ahead, but the progress towards this goal has been nothing short of phenomenal.

A few short months ago we featured the final design of A3 spacecraft (the ARKYD technology demonstrator) which integrates our first selfie cam into a space-capable vehicle to be launched in 2014.

A3-Spacecraft (updated-cropped)

Since then, we’ve been working day and night to design, machine, assemble, and integrate camera, boom, and display into a system that can operate in the harsh environment of space.   Now I can share with you a prototype of the flight hardware that will be taking the first Space Selfies.

Arkyd Space Selfie Flight Hardware

For those of you who are ARKYD Kickstarter backers, know that we’ll reach out for your Beta-Selfie submissions in late Spring, so we can capture them during the crucial integration phase of A3 this summer prior to launch. You’ll become a part of the build, catch a glimpse of our clean-room squad in action, and we couldn’t be more glad to have you there with us.

Community is also the reason why we are pressing ahead with the team at Zooniverse to create Asteroid Zoo: a platform that will allow YOU to find asteroids at home and help train computers to better find them in the future.  As I shared at the December meeting of the American Geophysical Union with Zooniverse’s Laura Whyte, development is well underway for release in the spring.  I can’t wait for one of our community supporters to discover their first asteroid.

Asteroid Zoo

To all our friends and supporters, THANK YOU, Happy Holidays, and best wishes for the New Year from the Planetary Resources team.

-Chris Lewicki @interplanetary
President & Chief Asteroid Miner, Planetary Resources, Inc.