Space has turned out to be the final frontier for more than 17,000 investors who responded to a crowdfunding appeal to finance the ARKYD space telescope.
The project raised $325,000 on the first day the pitch went live on Kickstarter.
Although falling short on the main target of $2 million, ARKYD is live and going ahead after 17,614 backers pledged $1.5 million to launch the Asteroid Zoo project.
The Zoo is a network of home computers crunching data to plot asteroids.
The biggest donor was Virgin Galactic owner Sir Richard Branson, who forked out $100,000 to help thrust ARKYD to the $1.5 million mark, although 25 other investors put their hand into their pockets to donate $10,000 each.
In return for their support, backers receive small gifts and recognition of their help from the ARKYD project.
Crowdfunded by Kickstarter
The pitch ended with 800 backers watching a Spacevidcast on YouTube live that celebrated the funding milestone
The campaign video was translated into 14 languages to reflect the number of international backers – although Star Trek’s Klingon was unlikely to have been the most popular.
The ARKYD project is aimed at launching near-Earth space exploration to pinpoint asteroids suitable for harvesting or mining precious metals and ores.
The first space missions after launching of the space telescope will test equipment and gather raw materials from asteroids identified as likely targets.
A launch date is set for August 2015.
The campaign behind the Kickstarter pitch was Planetary Resources, which was formed in 2009 by Eric Anderson and Dr Peter Diamondis.
“Planetary Resources harnesses the power of a network of minds like a hive, which can work together to produce a result that any of us working alone is unlikely to produce,” said Chris Lewicki, who is the Planetary Resources president and chief engineer.
“This project will capture the public imagination as we explore space and asteroids, while offering real benefits to Earth.”
According to Planetary resources, around 1,500 asteroids are as accessible as the Moon from Earth.
Asteroids have stable orbits around the sun and some have gravity fields, which make them easy to track and should make landing on them straightforward.
Thousands of other asteroids are in a belt between Jupiter and Mars. Astronomers have counted at least 9,000 and are discovering up to 1,000 more each year.
Asteroids are left over from the formation of the solar system. They range in size from small rocks to the largest, Ceres, which is almost 1,000 kilometres in diameter and 270,000 kilometres from Earth.