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$335,597 pledged of $1,000,000 goal
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By Project Blue
$335,597 pledged of $1,000,000 goal
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About

A note from the Project Blue team:

Today is the last day of our campaign, and while we haven’t met our goal of $1 million, the team at Project Blue is incredibly proud and thankful for the community we have built here through Kickstarter.

When we started this mission, we did so with the knowledge that it is incredibly ambitious. We carried that ambition to Kickstarter when we set such a high target goal. Over 1,500 backers have pledged more than $300,000. That is incredible. It’s truly inspiring to see how many people out there care about the future of space exploration and want to make sure we get that first glimpse at another planet like ours.

As we move forward on this journey, please be part of our mission, share your thoughts, and stay involved. We’ll keep an eye on Kickstarter, and may send an update from time-to-time. But if you want more frequent updates, as we hope you do, we encourage you to join our mailing list at projectblue.org.

As a remember —we can’t do this without you. So, please, consider a tax-deductible donation to help us launch the telescope that could find another Earth.

Donate to Project Blue

Other ways to stay involved: 

Thank you for supporting and being part of Project Blue.

Finding the first planet like Earth beyond our solar system would transform how we think about our place in the universe.

Ten years ago, we didn’t know if planets like Earth were common in the universe. Then NASA’s Kepler mission launched, and changed everything. Kepler discovered thousands of rocky planets orbiting stars, some of which are at a distance where liquid water could exist on the surface. It’s estimated that there are more Earth-like planets in the universe than people alive today. But we’ve never actually seen one.

Thanks to recent breakthroughs, the technology now exists to capture a direct image of an Earth-like planet outside our solar system. That's what we aim to do.

Project Blue is a consortium of leading space and research organizations on a mission to build and launch a small space telescope to observe planets around our nearest stellar neighbors: Alpha Centauri A and B (now also known as Rigil Kentaurus). 

Our goal is to capture an image, visible to the human eye, of orbiting planets. Seeing a "pale blue dot" could indicate the presence of oceans or an atmosphere — the potential to support life. It would be our first view of another world like our own. With a modest budget and a planned launch by 2020, this goal is tantalizingly close.

This isn’t a traditional space mission. 

Within astrophysics, NASA has traditionally funded projects with a much broader scope, like Kepler and Hubble, rather than a project like ours that is focused on a single target. So we started this campaign with the belief that together, people all over the world can push the boundaries of discovery in space and achieve one of the greatest milestones of human exploration. 

We need your help.

Project Blue brought together the technical experts who can build and launch this telescope: scientists from nonprofit organizations like BoldlyGo Institute, Mission Centaur, the SETI Institute, and the University of Massachusetts Lowell. Now we’re asking for your support to make Project Blue a reality. 

Follow Project Blue on Twitter, like and share on Facebook, and visit us at projectblue.org

 

"The first telescope to photograph a 'pale blue dot' of another Earth in a distant solar system may not be funded by NASA, the European Space Agency, or some other government agency.

It might come from Kickstarter." 

Business Insider

 

This mission won't be possible without the design and research you’ll support. 

We need $1 million to lay the groundwork for the mission through preliminary analysis, design, and simulations. 

We’ll design the system architecture based on detailed requirements laid out by our Science & Technology Advisory Committee (STAC). This is how the telescope, coronagraph, spacecraft bus, and ground system all work together to acquire, store, transmit, and process the pictures that the Project Blue mission will take. After initial design, we’ll run mission simulations to predict performance, and will make a Mission Performance Simulator available online for backers to run their own simulations. We will also be able to obtain materials for constructing the primary telescope mirror. 

Seeing Blue: What Are We Looking For?

(L) Voyager's pale blue dot photo of Earth from the edge of the solar system (R) A simulated image of the photo we aim to take. (Credit: NASA JPL / Jared Males)
(L) Voyager's pale blue dot photo of Earth from the edge of the solar system (R) A simulated image of the photo we aim to take. (Credit: NASA JPL / Jared Males)

NASA’s Kepler mission has been wildly successful in compiling over 2,300 confirmed exoplanets, telling us about their orbits and sizes, some of which have Earth-like potential. We now know that there are more potentially habitable planets than there are people alive on Earth, just in our galaxy alone! But to know more about a planet’s Earth-like properties, such as whether it hosts water or oxygen, we need more specific detection methods.

With advanced optics technology, we’ll use a technique called “direct imaging” to dim the light from the stars in Alpha Centauri, enabling us to see any surrounding planets. By working in visible light, we hope to gather key details about their composition. Capturing an image of a planet — actually seeing it in visible light — will help us begin to characterize its atmosphere and surface characteristics, especially its potential for oceans. If the planet appears blue — similar to the “pale blue dot” image of Earth taken by Voyager at the edge of our solar system in 1990 — it could suggest the presence of liquid oceans and a substantial atmosphere. We’ll be able to see the first indications about its capacity to support life.

The Telescope

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Our 45-50 cm aperture telescope is small enough to fit on a coffee table, but powerful enough to pick up a planet over a billion times dimmer than its star — from four light years away! That’s like seeing a tiny firefly buzzing around a lighthouse from ten miles away. Since Alpha Centauri is a binary system, we have to suppress the light of two stars. So we have to get creative. Our specialized starlight suppression system consists of:

1) An instrument called a coronagraph to block starlight

2) A deformable mirror, low-order wavefront sensors, and control algorithms to control incoming light; and

3) Post-processing methods to enhance image contrast.

With this system and Multi-Star Wavefront Control and Orbital Differential Imaging techniques, scientists at NASA have proposed and published a method to block the light from Alpha Centauri A and B simultaneously and detect any surrounding planets. Our team will leverage this extensive existing research and experimentation.  

In order for the telescope to accomplish such an amazing technical challenge, we have to send it to space, where it can operate outside the distorting effects of Earth’s atmosphere. We’ll launch it on a rocket and place it into an orbit designed to provide stable conditions required for making such precise measurements.

Earth's closest Sun-like star

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Animation of the telescope in low-Earth orbit observing Alpha Centauri. Credit: Liz Hyde 

Quite simply, Alpha Centauri presents the best opportunity to directly image the first Earth-like planet. We will be capturing images of light visible to the human eye, just like the camera on your phone does. There’s an estimated ~85% probability that the Alpha Centauri system harbors at least one potentially habitable planet that we may be able to see thanks to its:

  • Proximity: At only 4.37 light years away, Alpha Centauri is our closest neighboring star. A small, lightweight telescope only a half meter in diameter can resolve the habitable zones around these stars. The next closest Sun-like star is 2.5 times further away and would require a telescope 2.5 times larger in size! 
  • Binary structure: Alpha Centauri contains not just one, but two stars similar to our Sun — giving us two chances to find planets in either of their habitable zones. 
  • Sun-like characteristics: Alpha Centauri A is a yellow “G2” type star whose temperature and color closely match the Sun’s, increasing the probability that a planet in its habitable zone is analogous to Earth. Alpha Centauri B is a little cooler and redder than our Sun, but scientists still consider stars like it to be good candidate hosts for Earth-like planets.

An open science consortium

Project Blue is a team of world-renowned space and research organizations, including BoldlyGo Institute, Mission Centaur, the SETI Institute, and the University of Massachusetts Lowell, along with an advisory committee of scientists from Yale University, Penn State University, University of Arizona, Arizona State University, University of Victoria — and you! Our goal is to involve anyone who’s enthusiastic about space science and exploration in one of humanity’s most profound quests.

The Project Blue team is led by Dr. Jon Morse, former NASA director of astrophysics and the CEO of BoldlyGo Institute. 

Project Blue's Science & Technology Advisory Committee
Project Blue's Science & Technology Advisory Committee

          

Consortium members
Consortium members

 

Because the telescope is customized for close viewing of Alpha Centauri, it’ll take just a fraction of the money and time of a larger space mission that would survey dozens or hundreds of stars. We plan to launch the telescope into orbit by late 2019 or early 2020 and will spend up to two years conducting observations for any orbiting exoplanets.

2016: Form partnerships and initiate fundraising 

2017: Preliminary design, proof of concept prototypes, integration, and initial instrument prototype 

2018: Final mission design, fabrication, assembly, and testing 

2019: Final construction and launch to low-Earth orbit 

2020 - 2022: Science and mission operations. The phase of scientific discovery!

To learn more about the science behind Project Blue, read Scientific American's Miniature Space Telescope Could Boost the Hunt for "Earth Proxima."

To learn more about exoplanet research and technologies, visit NASA at http://exoplanets.nasa.gov.

Key Mission Supporters

  • TechnoClean – $25K Mission Flight Engineer
  • The Bendek Family – $25K Mission Commander
  • Pictet Group –  $10K Mission Commander
  • Teilch – $10K Mission Commander
  • Jon Morse & Laurie Leshin – $10K Mission Commander
  • Jeremy Hitchcock – $5K Mission Commander
  • Alba Peinado – $5K Mission Commander
  • Brett Marty – $5K Mission Commander
  • Chop Shop – Mission art & design
  • Oleksander Stecyk – Infographics
  • The Planetary Society

 

Risks and challenges

Capturing an image of a planet sounds like a straightforward goal, but it’s an incredibly challenging task. In fact, until a few years ago, directly imaging a habitable planet around Alpha Centauri was considered to be too difficult, even with a large telescope, because of the need to block the light of two stars. This, despite the fact that Alpha Centauri is so close to us and that it presents two opportunities to host planets around Sun-like stars. Now, we’re taking advantage of recent breakthroughs that finally make it possible. Published research has already described the required technical components both in the lab and in flight, and it gives us immense confidence in the mission’s success. But, as with any space mission, there are technical challenges to making the on orbit instrument perform the same way as in the lab.

Second, there's a chance that there aren't any potentially habitable planets in the Alpha Centauri system to find in the first place. However, NASA’s Kepler mission has taught us that exoplanets are everywhere — and small, rocky planets like the Earth appear to be very abundant. Just this summer, a team of astronomers found a planet around Proxima Centauri, the third (but much less Sun-like) star in the Alpha Centauri system. So we know there’s already at least one. You can see why we’re so passionate to explore what planets might lurk around our next-door-neighbor. We can't sit still until we find out.

The technology used to dim starlight, allowing us to see its planets, is new and continuously advancing. As with any developing technologies, it presents some challenges and risks. Starlight suppression has already been demonstrated successfully in the lab, but its application to binary star systems is a new innovation. Our team has extensive experience with successful high-contrast technology development projects, which enables us to confidently anticipate the specific technical requirements and costs. Since we’re focusing exclusively on one star system, we’ll be able to collect a huge amount of targeted data on Alpha Centauri. Optimizing for this one system allows us to design specific system calibration and noise-reduction algorithms, and thus make finding any orbiting planets easier.

Launching and commissioning a spacecraft is risky — sometimes the unexpected happens. The space environment also presents risks, such as maintaining telescope stability under extreme temperature swings and other hazards. But our team has decades of experience designing and building instrumentation for space, and we will work with experienced industry partners to maximize our chances for success. Dealing with risk is hard, but it’s part of why working on space missions is so exciting and rewarding. So while there are challenges ahead, our team’s preparation, expertise, and direct experience make us confident about achieving a truly historic goal.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $1 or more About $1.00

    $1 Mission Backer

    Help get Project Blue off the ground! Show your support of citizen science to receive backer-only mission updates.

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    Help get Project Blue off the ground! Receive special access to regular mission updates, including test and simulation results, new milestones reached, launch footage, behind-the-scenes video, and more. You'll also get a mission laptop sticker, first look at any pale blue dot images, and acknowledgment on the Project website.

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    $10 Mission Backer – Digital

    Help get Project Blue off the ground! Receive special access to regular mission updates, including test and simulation results, new milestones reached, launch footage, behind-the-scenes video, and more. You'll also get a digital donor badge, first look at any pale blue dot images, and acknowledgment on the Project website.

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    $25 Mission Explorer

    Become an mission member and receive the official Project Blue mission patch.

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    • Official mission patch
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    $40 Mission Explorer

    Carry your Project Blue pride with a canvas tote bag.

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    • Tote bag
    • Official mission patch
    • Laptop sticker
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    $43.70 Mission Explorer

    Snap a photo of history. We'll send you a high-resolution print of the “pale blue dot” photo that we’ll capture of an Earth-like planet around aCen, if one exists. (Available as an add-on to any higher tier for $15.)

    This is in addition to all $10 rewards.

    Includes:
    • High-res print of our “pale blue dot” photo (post-mission)
    • Digital high-res "pale blue dot" photo emailed to you
    • Digital donor badge for your social media/website
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    $65 Mission Explorer

    Own a physical part of the mission! You'll receive a 1 square cm piece of the thermal blanketing we'll use to shield the spacecraft when it's in orbit.

    This is in addition to all $40 rewards.

    Includes:
    • 1 square cm of thermal blanketing to be used on the spacecraft
    • Tote bag
    • Official mission patch
    • Laptop sticker
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    $100 Mission Flight Crew

    Show off your support of Project Blue with the official mission t-shirt in black or dark gray (option to add $8 for a premium American Apparel tee). You'll also receive a raw data image taken by the telescope of Alpha Centauri, personalized with your name and a unique time stamp. No two backers will have the same one!

    This is in addition to all $65 rewards and a designated Flight Crew mission patch.

    Includes:
    • Official mission t-shirt (+$8 for premium tee)
    • Personalized raw data image of aCentauri (delivered post launch)
    • 1 square cm of thermal blanketing to be used on the spacecraft
    • Tote bag
    • Official mission patch
    • Laptop sticker
    • Exclusive backer updates, early photo reveal + thank you email
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    $185 Mission Flight Crew

    Receive a limited edition, full-size color mission poster designed by Chop Shop. You'll also become an Explorer-level member of the Planetary Society, the team behind LightSail whose mission is to empower the world's citizens to advance space science and exploration. Membership perks include a member t-shirt, member card and welcome package, and a subscription to the quarterly publication, The Planetary Report.

    This is in addition to all $100 rewards and a designated Flight Crew mission patch.

    Includes:
    • Planetary Society 1-year membership
    • Limited edition high-res mission poster
    • Personalized raw data image of aCentauri (delivered post launch)
    • 1 square cm of thermal blanketing to be used on the spacecraft
    • Official mission t-shirt (+$8 for premium tee)
    • Tote bag
    • Official mission patch
    • Laptop sticker
    • Exclusive backer updates, early photo reveal + thank you email
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    $375 Mission Flight Crew

    See the telescope in 3D with a beautiful 2"x2"x3.25" crystal rendering from Foremost Crystal.

    This is in addition to all $100 rewards and a designated Flight Crew mission patch.

    Includes:
    • Crystal 3D telescope rendering
    • Planetary Society 1-year membership
    • Personalized raw data image of aCentauri (delivered post launch)
    • Official mission t-shirt (+$8 for premium tee)
    • 1 square cm of thermal blanketing to be used on the spacecraft
    • Tote bag
    • Official mission patch
    • Laptop sticker
    • Acknowledgment on Project website
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    $500 Mission Specialist

    Receive a limited edition, full-size color mission poster designed by Chop Shop AND see the telescope in 3D with a beautiful 2"x2"x3.25" crystal rendering from Foremost Crystal.

    This is in addition to all $100 rewards and a designated Mission Specialist mission patch.

    Includes:
    • Crystal 3D telescope rendering
    • Limited edition high-res mission poster
    • Official mission t-shirt (+$8 for premium tee)
    • Personalized raw data image of aCentauri (delivered post launch)
    • Planetary Society 1-year membership
    • 1 square cm of thermal blanketing to be used on the spacecraft
    • Tote bag
    • Official mission patch
    • Laptop sticker
    • Acknowledgment on Project website
    • Exclusive backer updates, early photo reveal + thank you email
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    $1000 Mission Specialist

    Celebrate the telescope launch with a special invitation to the Project Blue team party. (Travel and associated costs not included).

    This is in addition to all $100 rewards and a designated Mission Specialist mission patch.

    Includes:
    • Celebrate launch with the Project Blue team
    • Planetary Society 1-year membership
    • Personalized raw data image of aCentauri (delivered post launch)
    • Official mission t-shirt (+$8 for premium tee)
    • 1 square cm of thermal blanketing to be used on the spacecraft
    • Tote bag
    • Official mission patch
    • Laptop sticker
    • Acknowledgment on Project website
    • Exclusive backer updates, early photo reveal + thank you email
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    $2500 Misson Specialist

    Own a piece of spare mission hardware. These may include part of an electronics board, part of the solar array, mirror blanks, and screws and bolts. You'll also get to know the minds behind Project Blue in a one-on-one, 30-minute video call with a mission scientist.

    This is in addition to all $1000 rewards and a designated Mission Specialist mission patch.

    Includes:
    • Mission spare part (delivered post launch)
    • 30-minute video call with mission scientist
    • Celebrate launch with the Project Blue team
    • Planetary Society 1-year membership
    • Personalized raw data image of aCentauri (delivered post launch)
    • Official mission t-shirt (+$8 for premium tee)
    • 1 square cm of thermal blanketing to be used on the spacecraft
    • Tote bag
    • Official mission patch
    • Laptop sticker
    • Acknowledgment on Project website
    • Exclusive backer updates, early photo reveal + thank you email
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    $2500 Mission Educator

    Bring space exploration to schools by pledging on behalf of a classroom of your choice. Your class will receive a 30-minute video chat with a mission scientist, exclusive updates giving students a glimpse into the lifecycle of a space mission, a class pack of official mission stickers, a 1-year Planetary Society Explorer membership for the teacher, and a personalized raw data image of Alpha Centauri delivered post-launch.

    You'll also be invited to join the Planetary Society mission team at the 2017 LightSail 2 launch party, with the opportunity to take a selfie with Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye.

    (Travel and associated costs not included.)

    Includes:
    • 30-minute video call with mission scientist
    • 50 mission stickers for the class
    • Planetary Society 1-year membership
    • Personalized raw data image of aCentauri (delivered post launch)
    • Acknowledgment on Project website
    • Exclusive backer updates, early photo reveal + thank you email
    • Invitation to LightSail 2 launch party + selfie w/ Bill Nye
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    $5000 Mission Commander

    Attend the telescope unveiling for an in-person first look at the Project Blue telescope before launch. (Travel and associated expenses not included). You'll also receive a formal acknowledgment in the scientific paper we'll write on mission findings and get to know the minds behind Project Blue in a one-on-one, 1-hour video call with a mission scientist.

    This is in addition to all $1000 rewards and a designated Mission Commander mission patch.

    Includes:
    • Join us at the telescope unveiling
    • Acknowledgment in mission scientific paper
    • 1-hour video call with mission scientist
    • Celebrate launch with the Project Blue team
    • Planetary Society 1-year membership
    • Personalized raw data image of aCentauri (delivered post launch)
    • Official mission t-shirt (+$8 for premium tee)
    • 1 square cm of thermal blanketing to be used on the spacecraft
    • Tote bag
    • Official mission patch
    • Laptop sticker
    • Acknowledgment on Project website
    • Exclusive backer updates, early photo reveal + thank you email
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    Pledge $5,000 or more About $5,000

    $5000 Mission Educator

    Send students to space with a pledge on behalf of a classroom of your choice. We'll engrave the name of the school or class on the telescope.

    You'll also be invited to join the Planetary Society team at the 2017 LightSail 2 launch party, including a selfie opp with Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye.

    That's in addition to a 1-hour class video chat with a mission scientist, exclusive updates giving students a glimpse into the lifecycle of a space mission, a class pack of official mission stickers, a 1-year Planetary Society Explorer membership for the teacher, and a personalized raw data image of Alpha Centauri delivered post-launch.

    (Travel and associated costs not included.)

    Includes:
    • Name of class or school engraved on the telescope
    • 1-hour video call with mission scientist
    • 50 mission stickers for the class
    • Planetary Society 1-year membership
    • Personalized raw data image of aCentauri (delivered post launch)
    • Acknowledgment on Project website
    • Exclusive backer updates, early photo reveal + thank you email
    • Invitation to LightSail 2 launch party + selfie w/ Bill Nye
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    Pledge $10,000 or more About $10,000

    $10000 Mission Commander

    Tour a mission development site with a Project scientist and see for yourself where the science happens! (Travel and associated expenses not included). We'll also engrave your name on the telescope — literally writing your name in history.

    This is in addition to all $5000 rewards (minus the 1-hour video call) and a designated Mission Commander mission patch.

    Includes:
    • Tour a mission development site
    • Your name engraved on the telescope
    • Join us at the telescope unveiling
    • Acknowledgment in mission scientific paper
    • Celebrate launch with the Project Blue team
    • Planetary Society 1-year membership
    • Personalized raw data image of aCentauri (delivered post launch)
    • Official mission t-shirt (+$8 for premium tee)
    • 1 square cm of thermal blanketing to be used on the spacecraft
    • Tote bag
    • Official mission patch
    • Laptop sticker
    • Acknowledgment on Project website
    • Exclusive backer updates, early photo reveal + thank you email
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    Pledge $10,000 or more About $10,000

    $10000 Mission Educator

    Pledge on behalf of a school or classroom of your choice, attend the Planetary Society's LightSail 2 launch as a VIP, and have lunch with Bill Nye. Exclusive rewards for this tier include:

    - Bring space to life by gifting a classroom visit from a mission scientist.
    - A VIP invitation to the Planetary Society's LightSail 2 launch. View the pad roll-out and attend other special events, including lunch with Bill Nye. And of course, you'll get a selfie with Bill.

    That's in addition to your school or class name engraved on the telescope, exclusive updates giving students a glimpse into the lifecycle of a space mission, a class pack of official mission patches, a 1-year Planetary Society Explorer membership for the teacher, and a personalized raw data image of Alpha Centauri delivered post-launch.

    (Your travel, scientist's travel, and associated costs not included.)

    Includes:
    • A classroom visit from a mission scientist
    • 50 mission patches for the class
    • Name of class or school engraved on the telescope
    • Planetary Society 1-year membership
    • Personalized raw data image of aCentauri (delivered post launch)
    • Acknowledgment on Project website
    • Exclusive backer updates, early photo reveal + thank you email
    • VIP invite to LightSail 2 launch + lunch with Bill Nye
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    Pledge $25,000 or more About $25,000

    $25000 Mission Flight Engineer

    You'll vote on a museum to receive a piece of mission hardware after the mission, and have the choice of one of the following (quantities available on a first-come, first-serve basis):

    (4) Endow a fellowship in your name to enable a university student to work on the mission. OR

    (4) Choose a school, institution, or community organization of your choice to receive a private lecture from a Project Blue scientist. (Scientist's travel and associated costs not included). OR

    (1) Visit a southern hemisphere observatory with a Project Blue team member to see Alpha Centauri with your own eyes. (Travel and associated expenses not included). OR

    (1) Attend a space balloon test launch of the coronagraph. Before we send the telescope and coronagraph to space, we'll test the coronagraph payload by launching it on a high-altitude space balloon. Join us to witness this important mission milestone. (Travel and associated costs not included).

    This is in addition to all $10000 rewards with a designated Mission Flight Engineer mission patch.

    Includes:
    • Endow a student fellowship in your name OR
    • Gift a private lecture from a Project scientist to a school OR
    • Visit a southern hemisphere observatory w/ Project scientist OR
    • Attend launch of test coronagraph on high altitude balloon
    • Vote on museum recipient of mission hardware
    • Special recognition on Project Blue social media and website
    • All $10,000 rewards
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    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Limited 6 backers
    $
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Funding period

- (35 days)