Imagine having your own personal satellite orbiting the Earth. It’s got cameras and sensors galore, and you can use it to run experiments, take pictures, and even beam messages back to the blue marble.
Well, that geek fantasy will become a reality if the ArduSat project, which you can see here on Kickstarter, reaches its funding goal. The general public will be able to rent time on this small satellite and use it for whatever they please, courtesy of its Arduino processor.
UPDATE, June 25: The ArduSat Kickstarter project has reached its target of $35,000. But we’d love to raise more money, which would help build a more capable satellite with better steering and better cameras and other sensors. $75,000 would be ideal, so donate and spread the word!
UPDATE, July 9: The deadline for the contest has been extended! Keep sending in entries until July 15.
We at Discover Magazine think this is pretty neat. And we’d like to give away a development kit worth $1500 to the Kickstarter donor who submits the best idea for an in-space experiment before July 6th, 2012.
The kit includes Arduinos and an advanced sensor suite shipped to your home address, as well as one week of up-time on the satellite to run any experiment. You’ll be able to build the experiment yourself and have it be sent up on ArduSat when it takes to the skies.
Here’s what you have to do to enter the (drumroll) Discover Space Challenge:
Two years ago, a pair of scientists put out a shingle on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter: They needed, by hook or by crook, to get to Mexico to study a rare species of quail. 55 people signed up to fund their project to the tune of almost $5,000 dollars, in return for quail T-shirts, books, and the profound thanks of the researchers. The New York Times wrote about it, and ever since, there has been talk of a place on the web just for crowdfunding science.
The newly launched PetriDish.org is an answer to these prayers. The site is visually appealing—cartoon test-tubes fill up with bubbling orange fluid as the projects get funded, and the introductory videos from researchers convey their excitement both about their work and about engaging the community. The nine handpicked projects now on the site are fascinating: funding the search for new species of ants in one of the last standing pristine Malagasy forests, helping get DNA sequences for one of the longest-studied wolf populations in the world, and pitching in to find the first moon orbiting a planet beyond our solar system, among others. And there are perks for the folks who chip in. The scientists and the team beyond PetriDish have put together rewards for backers that range from framed pressings of one team’s algae samples to getting a species named after you.
I asked Matt Salzberg, the founder of PetriDish, about the site and the projects.