Planetary Resources, the space company that launched the crowdsourced project that would allow its backers to take "selfies" using a space telescope, has announced that it is scuttling the concept in order to pursue a different project.
Despite the success of the Kickstarter campaign for its Arkyd telescope, Planetary Resources said that the public interest it had received for the project was not able to translate into investment from outside sources. The company is now offering to provide a full refund to the more than 17,600 individuals who pledged about $1.5 million in support of the campaign.
Chris Lewicki, the chief executive of Planetary Resources, said they were confident that they would be able to get enough financial backing from backers outside the Kickstarter community at the time they decided to close the crowdsourcing campaign in 2013.
While they were able to develop the technology needed to push through with the Arkyd telescope project, Lewicki admitted that they failed to gain support from educational and business sectors, a move that was crucial to the mission.
The project would have allowed its backers to use the Arkyd telescope to produce images of themselves projected against the backdrop of space.
Planetary Resources may have discontinued the project but it was able to complete some of its secondary goals such as the launch of its Arkyd-3 test spacecraft. It was also making plans to send two additional Arkyd-6 satellites into space this summer.
However, it is clear that the space company has shifted its focus on more practical business applications.
Aside from announcing the cancellation of the Arkyd telescope project, Planetary Resources revealed that it has invested $21.1 million to fund a separate project known as Ceres. The program involves using sensor-equipped Arkyd satellites to determine the composition of materials found on the Earth's surface.
The company hopes that the Ceres project could be used to identify new sources of minerals or energy on Earth. It could also benefit agencies that monitor the occurrence of wildfires or the quality of water around the planet.
Lewicki said that they are also developing key technologies that would allow scientists to spot near-Earth asteroids that could be commercially viable.