Next Big Thing – personal space probes

A space-faring scheme for the less financially-gifted satellite and star fan

Oh, what preposterous multi-million pound venture is this?

Fear not, guardian of the geek treasury, for this scheme – even though it’s a space-faring one – is geared away from the Virgin ‘£50 to light my cigar’ Galactic crew and towards the more modest space fan, such as we. It’s basically a chance to get your own tiny space probe – the size of a shoebox – blasted into orbit for as little as a few hundred Earth pounds. So you’re in, yes?

Not sure NASA will be keen on the idea of PAYG space debris..

Hark ye! NASA is well into the concept. It can no longer afford to put big fancy satellites up there. Tiny sats are the order of the day in the big black – of which ‘chip sats’, such as the Sprite (, are the latest craze. For a fraction of the payload of a Sputnik, a veritable swarm of these can be floating around the Earth. Or Saturn. Or Kepler 22-b, indeed.

So, with a relatively low unit cost, we can sponsor our very own space machine?

Yep. Cough up £200 and you get… well, not a lot yet. Early versions won’t pack more than a processor, a transmitter and some solar panels.

But that’s just the start – future chip sats could include anything from thermometers to cameras. So while the world’s zillionaires will still be waiting for Sir Branson to lift off, you’ll be able to watch your own camera feed straight from Mars. Maybe.

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