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With all our aspirations of escaping the planet and traveling the galaxy, we still don’t know that much about the Earth itself — or at least as much as we could.

Thankfully, startups like Planet Labs exist to change that. And today, the company announced that it has closed a fresh $52 million round of funding to set its plans into motion.

Planet Labs plans to launch small satellites (called Doves) to orbit the planet and send back high-resolution images of Earth. The startup was founded by two former NASA scientists who hope researchers and others will use the images to track deforestation and changing weather patterns, and improve global agriculture, among other things. The more data we can collect about the planet, the more we can understand our environment.

Planet Labs has already launched four Doves into relatively low orbit and has plans to launch a total of 28 satellites in its first flock (Flock 1) before the end of 2013.

The round includes investments from billionaire Yuri Milner, Industry Ventures, Felicis Ventures, Lux Capital, and Ray Rothrock as well as existing investors DFJ, Capricorn, O’Reilly Alpha Tech Ventures (OATV), Founders Fund, First Round Capital, Innovation Endeavors, Data Collective, and AME Cloud Ventures. The San Francisco, Calif.-based startup has raised a total of $65 million to date.

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