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Scientists Building Telescope To Seek Another Earth Through Crowdfunding

First Posted: Nov 16, 2016 05:00 AM EST

Private research institutions are launching a crowdfunding campaign to help build a new space telescope that could be capable of searching for -- and photographing -- planets in the Alpha Centauri star system.

The Alpha Centauri, which holds stars most similar to our Sun, is our best bet for the mission, which is now called "Project Blue." Jon Morse, the former director of NASA's astrophysics division and the current chief executive of the BoldlyGo Institute, said that scientists are looking to "take another pale blue-dot image" that is similar to what the Voyager 1 spacecraft took of the Earth in 1990.

According to The Washington Post, Morse and his partner, Brett Marty, the executive director of nonprofit organization Mission Centaur, are aiming to raise $1 million via Kickstarter -- which is enough money for seed funding of the project. However, the rest of the budget will likely come from foundations and other wealthy donors.

But what would you get if you help fund the project? Space.com noted that there will be mission patches, first looks at photos and even a 3D crystal rendering of the telescope, as well as pieces of spare hardware and special access to mission scientists and building process, depending on the amount you actually put in.

Morse and Marty are aiming for their telescope to launch into low Earth orbit by 2018 -- and the size, which would be about that of a dishwasher, would mean that the hardware is relatively modest in its scope, putting the total price of the entire mission to be about $50 million or less.

There are already organizations interested in the mission, including the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). The Institute and the University of Massachussetts Lowell, meanwhile, are said to have already signed on to collaborate in the project.

Still, this is the kind of high-risk, high-reward mission that NASA is not too keen on funding. While focusing on Alpha Centauri keeps costs low, there is no guarantee that the system could have in it planets, let alone a habitable one similar to our own Earth.

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