Crowd Sourcing a Space Program – Mars One Colony & Asteroid Mining

Crowd sourcing of funds for new projects is an interesting development for any artist. The approach has been used quite successfully by many writers, although these writers already had a large following to begin with. To get an idea of how far this can go, have a look at musician Amanda Palmer’s talk The Art of Asking. It’s clear the sort of extreme extrovert/sociopathic personality you need to take this to an extreme – hell I couldn’t do it. But it is fascinating. And the possibilities are there.

What is also interesting is how this concept is being applied to the development of the space industry and also space exploration.

Aspiring asteroid miner Planetary Resources is developing a series of spacecraft designed to study solar-system asteroids. The company has just launched a crowd funding campaign to support the development of their Arkyd spacecraft. The deal is, if you donate, you get to use the Arkyd, including potentially directing the vehicle’s space telescope at your own objects of interest.

Planetary Resources aim to mine near-Earth asteroids for precious metals and water, both for use in space and also to supply Earth’s needs. The company has some high-profile support, including James Cameron and Google-man Larry Page.


Planetary Resources have just launched a campaign to raise $1 million through public funding. They are waiting to see how much support they gather before deciding whether to also public-fund additional Arkyd spacecraft. For $25 you get a ‘space selfie’ a photo of an uploaded digital image of yourself taken against the background of the telescope in orbit. (Your image appears on a screen on the spacecraft, allowing your image to be in the shot). $99 buys 5 minutes of observation time, while for $150 you can point the telescope at any object of interest you choose and receive a digital copy of the Arkyd photo. That’s pretty cool. I wonder if they would let you drive it?

Explorers Mars One want to establish a permanent human settlement on Mars by 2023 – an ambitious timetable in anyone’s book. They recently opened for applications for colonists, so if you’re keen to leave the planet permanently, check out the site. While you’re at it, you can look at the profiles of the 80,000 people who have already applied.

Mars One do not intend to be technology developers, instead proposing to use a suite of existing/proven technologies under licence – such as Space X’s Falcon Heavy launcher, a lander envisaged as a variant of Space X’s Dragon capsule – as well as a Mars transit vehicle, rovers, suits, communications systems etc. They already have an impressive list of advisors and ambassadors for the project.

The Mars One model depends on revenue from donations, merchandising and from broadcasts leading up to the event that will focus on a 24/7 ‘Big Brother’ style converge of astronaut candidates. Opponents of Mars One’s approach compare the Mars One concept unfavourably to reality television, and believe the need for ratings will overshadow safety concerns. I wonder what happens when you get voted off the planet?

You can already by the Mars One T-shirt, coffee mug,  hoodie or poster.

What do you think about public-funded projects to get us off the rock? Is this an exciting or frightening development? Should space exploration be left to governments?

Cross-posted at chrismcmahons blog.

10 thoughts on “Crowd Sourcing a Space Program – Mars One Colony & Asteroid Mining

  1. Explorers Mars One want to establish a permanent human settlement on Mars by 2023 – an ambitious timetable in anyone’s book. They recently opened for applications for colonists, so if you’re keen to leave the planet permanently, check out the site.

    …I probably wasn’t the only one that immediately calculated how old I’d be….

    1. I’m all for space travel, but the idea of leaving the planet permanently? Maybe I’d go for a decade if I could bring my friends and family along:) Yep, astronaut material, me.

  2. I like the idea for the Arts. Instead of a single Angel, you lure in a couple of thousand, and the show goes on.

    For companies? I dunno. It’s like raising money through an IPO (Initial Public Offering, AKA selling shares), but never giving up any ownership. The idea is interesting . . . But I want to _own_ Hygeia, not a T-shirt that says I helped mine it.

    1. I’m sure behind all the soft-edged appeal to the public are a few shrewd business types who want to end up owning the asteroids! Yep, but you’re right – we end up with the T-shirt.

  3. “Should space exploration be left to governments?”

    No, no, no. Not if the rest of us want to go.
    I was doing a talk at a local law school on space law, and, afterwards, one of the students expressed as how it was all very well for these commercial people to want to go, but it made him sad to see NASA (which apparently no one knows uses commercial contractors) take a step back. Commercial just wasn’t the same as the glories of our collective efforts, to his eyes. I laughed at him (nicely), and told him he’d been paying too much attention to the propaganda (again, nicely), and that he had to see the nobility in these private operators risking their fortunes and reputations like they are doing to take us to a new age.
    Also, look at the internet. There may have been government origins, but it didn’t become so truly democratic until people started trying to make money from it.
    He didn’t seem convinced, but at least he heard a contrary view, perhaps for the first time.

    1. Right now it looks like we need commercial involvement if we ever want to get out into space. Certainly, companies like SpaceX are where the innovation is at. Could it be different? I think so. With more political will, the right people and the right leadership. But it’s not happening.

      It’s exciting that people want to grab hold of the vision and make it happen, and if we can help, why not? There are a LOT of people out there whose dreams of space exploration and advancement have been frustrated – especially SFF readers!

  4. I did a presentation on private space ventures for one of my classes this spring. There’s another new company that’s going for asteroid mining, though I forgot the name of it. And there’s the Inspiration Mars fly-by. Space X and Virgin Galactic and another launch developer that is, IIRC, Space X and Planetary Resources jointly.

    I ended my presentation with a slide of the $15 Mars One cups that can be purchased.

    I made a joke about reality television but all in all I think that even Mars One is viable and I’d probably participate (if I were so lucky) in a one way trip to Mars but only under certain conditions.

    One of the grad students during my Q&A asked if I thought that these private ventures were compatible with doing science. I said that any time we get off the surface of the planet it’s compatible with doing science and that even if Mars One (for example) was a complete failure and every died we’d learn an incredible amount from it.

        1. It is exciting. I can’t wait to see how it all develops. Space X’s concept of reusable multi-staging is really interesting & has tons of potentional for lowering the cost-to-orbit. Once that hurdle is jumped, everything gets easier.

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