The Planetary Society

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The Planetary Society
Type NGO and Non-profit Foundation
Headquarters
Key people Carl Sagan, Bruce C. Murray, Louis Friedman, Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson
Mission To inspire the people of Earth to explore other worlds, understand our own, and seek life elsewhere.
Method(s) Space advocacy
Members +40,000
Website Planetary.org
Planetary Society founders. 1980 photo.

The Planetary Society is an American-based non-government, nonprofit organization supported by more than forty thousand international members; anyone can join. It is involved in research and engineering projects related to astronomy, planetary science, exploration, public outreach, and political advocacy. It was founded in 1980 by Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray, and Louis Friedman,[1] and has members from more than one hundred countries around the world.

The Society is dedicated to the exploration of the Solar System, the search for Near Earth Objects, and the search for extraterrestrial life.[2]

In addition to public outreach, the Planetary Society also sponsors novel and innovative projects that will "seed" further exploration. In June 2005, the Society launched the Cosmos 1 craft to test the feasibility of solar sailing, but the rocket failed shortly after liftoff.[3][4]

The Planetary Society runs many programs. Two of the highest profile programs are Lightsail and LIFE (Living Interplanetary Life Experiment.) Lightsail is a series of three ultralight spacecraft which will be propelled by sunlight.[5] As of May 2011 LightSail-1 is undergoing deployment tests and is scheduled to piggyback on a future NASA mission.[6]

LIFE is a two-part program designed to test the ability of microorganisms to survive in space.[7] The first phase involves sending carefully packaged microorganisms into low earth orbit on a space shuttle.[8] Shuttle LIFE was scheduled to fly on shuttle Endeavor's final flight on May 16, 2011 and return to earth on June 1.[9] The second phase rode on Russia's Fobos-Grunt mission, which attempted to go to Mars' moon Phobos and back. This three-year mission was designed to test the survivability of microorganisms in interplanetary flight and was set to launch some time in mid-Oct to mid-Nov 2011.[7] On November 8, 2011 Fobos-Grunt successfully launched, but for reasons unknown failed to escape earth orbit. Roscosmos has given up on the probe leaving earth orbit and it is predicted to return to earth sometime in early January 2012.[10] However, the LIFE program is still continuing, due to the ongoing analyses of the microorganisms flown on the Shuttle LIFE mission and, according to Bruce Betts himself, another ride of LIFE is considered.[11]

In addition to its projects, The Planetary Society is also a strong advocate for space funding and missions of exploration within NASA. They actively lobby Congress and engage their membership in the United States to write and call their representatives in support of NASA funding.

Mission[edit]

The society's mission is: "To inspire and involve the world's public in space exploration through advocacy, projects, and education".[12]

History[edit]

The Planetary Society was founded in 1980 by Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray, and Louis Friedman as a champion of public support of space exploration and the search for extraterrestrial life. Until his death in 1996, the Society was actively led by Sagan, who used his celebrity and political clout to influence the political climate of the time, including protecting SETI in 1981 from congressional cancellation. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the Society pushed its scientific and technologic agenda, which led to an increased interest in rover-based planetary exploration and NASA's New Horizons mission to Pluto.

In addition to its political affairs, the Society has created a number of space related projects and programs. The SETI program began with Paul Horowitz’s Suitcase SETI and has grown to encompass searches in radio and optical wavelengths from the northern and southern hemispheres of the Earth. SETI@home, the largest distributed computing experiment on Earth, is perhaps the Society's best-known SETI project. Other projects include the development of the Mars Microphone instrument which flew on the failed Mars Polar Lander project, as well as the LightSail-1 project, a solar sail project to determine if space travel is possible by using only sunlight.

Program summary[edit]

The Planetary Society currently runs seven different program areas with a number of programs in each area:

Organization[edit]

The Planetary Society is governed by a 17-member volunteer Board of Directors chosen for their passion about and knowledge of space exploration. The Board has a Chairman, President, and Vice President and an Executive Committee, and normally meets twice per year to set the Society's policies and future directions. Nominations are sought and considered periodically from a variety of sources, including from members of the Board and Advisory Council, Society Members, staff, and experts in the space community.[13] On June 7, 2010, the Society announced that famed American science educator Bill Nye would become the new executive director of the society.[14]

Members[edit]

The Planetary Society's current Board of Directors includes the following:[13]

Notable members of its Advisory Council include:[15]

Projects[edit]

The Planetary Society sponsors projects to seed further exploration. Some projects are mostly done in collaboration with the Russians, especially the Russian Federal Space Agency. Members privately fund these projects:

A member's donation of $4.2 million in 2014 will be used by the Society to further their research into solar sails and asteroid tracking.[17]

The Planetary Report[edit]

The Planetary Report is the quarterly internationally recognized flagship magazine of The Planetary Society, featuring articles and full-color photos to provide comprehensive coverage of discoveries on Earth and other planets. It went from bimonthly to quarterly with the June (summer solstice) 2011 issue.

This magazine reaches over 100,000 members of The Planetary Society all over the world, with news about planetary missions, spacefaring nations, space explorers, planetary science controversies and the latest findings in humankind's exploration of the solar system.

Planetary Radio[edit]

Members of The Planetary Society also host a weekly 30 minute radio programme and podcast.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Spangenburg, Ray; Moser, Diane (2004), Carl Sagan: a biography, Greenwood Publishing Group, p. 107, ISBN 978-0-313-32265-5 .
  2. ^ "The Planetary Society encourages exploration of the universe to find extraterrestrial life", Los Angeles Times, May 1, 1983 .
  3. ^ "No Signal From Solar Sail Spacecraft", Fox News, June 21, 2005 .
  4. ^ Asaravala, Amit (June 23, 2005), "Reality of Cosmos 1 Loss Sets In", Wired .
  5. ^ "LightSail: A Multi-Mission Project", The Planetary Society website. Retrieved 2011-05-05.
  6. ^ "LightSail-1", The Planetary Society website. Retrieved 2011-05-05.
  7. ^ a b "LIFE Experiment: Shuttle & Phobos: FAQ", The Planetary Society website. Retrieved 2011-05-05.
  8. ^ Shuttle LIFE homepage, The Planetary Society. Retrieved 2011-05-05.
  9. ^ "Planetary Society Welcomes Home Shuttle LIFE Passengers", press release, The Planetary Society website, June 1, 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-15.
  10. ^ "'January re-entry' for Phobos-Grunt Mars probe", BBC News, December 16, 2011 
  11. ^ "Update on Phobos – Where’s a shuttle when you need it?" Victor Grippi – The Atomic Writer. Retrieved 04-10-2012.
  12. ^ About Us Page for The Planetary Society - Planetary Society
  13. ^ a b "Meet our Board", The Planetary Society webpage. Retrieved 2011-03-15.
  14. ^ "Bill Nye Signs on as Planetary Society's New Executive Director", press release, The Planetary Society website, June 7, 2010. Retrieved 2011-03-15.
  15. ^ Advisory council, The Planetary Society webpage. Retrieved 2013-08-08.
  16. ^ "Projects - SETI@home - Recent updates". Planetary Society. May 26, 2009. Retrieved 23 January 2010. 
  17. ^ "New Scientist: Cash for solar sails". Retrieved 5 Apr 2014. 

External links[edit]