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Asteroid-mining firm meets $1 million crowd-funding goal

By Irene Klotz

(Reuters) - A start-up asteroid mining firm that launched a crowd-funding campaign to gauge interest in a planned space telescope reached its $1 million goal, company officials said on Thursday.

Bellevue, Washington-based Planetary Resources intends to build and operate telescopes to hunt for asteroids orbiting near Earth and robotic spacecraft to mine them.

The company, whose financial backers include Google's founders, also envisions a companion educational and outreach program to let students, museums and armchair astronomers make use of the first telescrope that Planetary Resources plans to build, called Arkyd.

Three weeks ago, Planetary Resources launched a crowd-funding initiative on Kickstarter to assess interest in the project and set a goal of raising $1 million by June 30.

"It surpassed that amount Wednesday night," company spokeswoman Stacey Tearne wrote in an email.

"We currently have 12,000-plus backers who have pledged just over $1.07 million," Tearne said.

For a pledge of $25, participants can make use of a "space photo booth," by sending a picture to be displayed on the telescope so a remote camera can snap an image, with Earth in the background, and transmit it back.

For $200, participants can actually use the telescope to look at an astronomical object.

The Kickstarter campaign complements the company's ongoing efforts to design and build Arkyd. Investors include Google executives Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, as well as Ross Perot Jr., chairman of the real estate development firm Hillwood and The Perot Group.

(Editing by Kevin Gray; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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