Take SETI to the Stars!

Press Release From: Planetary Society
Posted: Monday, December 20, 2004

Dear Member,

For nearly a quarter century, The Planetary Society and its Members have been lonely champions of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). When government support was eliminated, we stepped in. We funded the most innovative searches on Earth -- searches that could one day prove the existence of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe.

But to date, every SETI effort has shared one thing: our searches have been based here on the surface of our planet, beneath the blanket of our atmosphere. Certain kinds of signals cannot penetrate that atmosphere, and so they are not being monitored at all...indeed, they have never been monitored.

Now, a remarkable new SETI opportunity is beckoning: a way to dramatically increase the power of our search by sending an advanced SETI detection system above our thick atmosphere and into space.

Indeed, Space-Based SETI is a truly revolutionary step in our search for life beyond Earth...and you and I and Society Members across the globe have the chance to be in at the absolute ground floor.

Your part in this is easy: simply help us replenish and fortify the Society's SETI Fund, the principal resource we use each year to both maintain and expand our comprehensive SETI network.

Help the search continue at:

Why Space-based SETI? There are large sections of the "light" spectrum that don't penetrate through our atmosphere. No matter how much we look from the surface of Earth, we can't see signals in these wavelength ranges.

For example, a civilization could broadcast at infrared or at millimeter wavelengths. Whole sections of these parts of the electromagnetic spectrum are absorbed by Earth's atmosphere. Theoretically, such transmissions would be at least as practical as using radio waves or visible light, the focus of our traditional SETI efforts. But we've never before had the option of monitoring them.

So here's where a SETI system in orbit would make all the difference. Free of any interference from the atmosphere, it could watch for signals continuously... and watch for them across a far greater range of wavelengths.

To get the ball rolling, we're organizing a major international workshop to bring together the leading SETI thinkers. Their goal will be to design experiments that will take this field literally into orbit and vastly extend this critical scientific endeavor.

Since Space-Based SETI is almost completely brand new, The Planetary Society has a lot of work to do before it becomes do-able...but who better to facilitate this revolution in SETI? It will, of course, be the Society and its SETI Fund -- with your contribution -- that makes this crucial early groundwork possible.

Support the SETI Fund at:

As we start into a new year, it's important that this key workhorse, our SETI Fund be strong. Right now, it isn't. The usual expenses of operating our SETI programs in 2004, combined with exceptional costs associated with trying to complete our incredible new Optical SETI telescope at Harvard, have stretched it perilously tight.

The thing you need to keep in mind is that, these days, SETI -- in the U.S. and in other nations -- depends almost entirely on private citizens like you and me working side by side with grassroots-based organizations like The Planetary Society. Absent from this incredible adventure are the world's governments.

NASA remains, to this day, legally barred by Congress from meaningfully participating in any SETI efforts. So, too, in other nations: around the world, governmental funding for SETI has been rare and erratic.

But where other supporters have come and gone, The Planetary Society has been an unwavering champion of the search. We've been the innovators, pushing the envelope, daring to dream what might be possible.

But support of Space-Based SETI will come on top of the support the Fund already provides to our rich array of ongoing projects: SETI@home, META II and, of course, Optical SETI.

As always, our projects continue to advance...but all, also, are hampered by the constraint of tight budgets. And the one thing we are sure of is this: the resources we need can only come from one place. Not from government grants, corporate grants, or anywhere else...but only from you.

That's appropriate. We're a true grassroots organization. We exist only because visionary citizens such as yourself, people who hunger for new knowledge and new explorations, choose to participate. We exist because people like you reach into their pockets and proudly make it happen.

I urge you to do so again, today. Please help us beef up the SETI Fund for the coming year by sending your most generous special Thank you.


Louis Friedman
Executive Director

P.S.Your support for the SETI Fund can pay huge dividends -- and not just for space exploration. IBM, in partnership with the United Nations, the World Health Organization and other groups, just announced a project that is a direct off-shoot of the Society's groundbreaking SETI@ home project. The World Community Grid will, like SETI@ home, harness the unused computing time of millions of volunteers to speed scientific discovery in health, meteorology and other areas.

YOU helped prove this was possible. So please, continue to make scientific discovery happen with your generous contribution to the SETI Fund.

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