The awesome this is cannot be overstated. Discover Magazine is contributing to a project (and a contest) to help the public create and run experiments on a bona fide satellite to be launched into space. The KickStarter project aims to raise $35,000 in the next month to help fund the small cubesat satellite. If they overachieve on the goal they will add more capacity.
As of this writing, they are 5 days in and have raised over $26,000!
There are a number of factors that make this incredibly cool and destined to be a hit. First: it’s small, at just a 10cm cube and weighing in at 1Kg, this thing is compact enough to fit into the leftover space from a hundred million dollar launch. Satellite costs are astronomical (hur!) but this little gem packs a laundry list of sensors and cameras into a small space, keeping costs very low. A contributor can secure a week of satellite time to run his/her experiments for under $1,000. Granted, you’re not taking Hubble shots but even the smallest experiments cost 10s or 100s of times the investment. For just a few bucks you can help advance interesting science.
Second: it’s modular. Read up on those Arduino CubeSats. If they have the interest and contributions they simply add more cubes. Each cube adds to the capability of the mix.
The only flaw is the timing. If only this were being done in the middle of the school year instead of the summer break I’d be partnering with my local schools to put a few cool ideas in space. Maybe next time. Based on the current uptake, there WILL be a next time.