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Bruce Betts

Headshot of Bruce Betts

Bruce Betts

Chief Scientist / LightSail Program Manager

[email protected]
+1-626-793-5100

Dr. Bruce Betts is Chief Scientist and LightSail Program Manager for The Planetary Society, the world’s largest space interest group.  Dr. Betts is a planetary scientist who earned a B.S. in physics and math and an M.S. in Applied Physics from Stanford and a Ph.D. in Planetary Science with a minor in Geology from Caltech.  He spent several years with San Juan Institute/Planetary Science Institute as a Research Scientist, and later Senior Research Scientist.  He studied planetary surfaces, including Mars, the Moon, and Jupiter’s moons, using infrared and other data, and published several scientific papers on these subjects.  Dr. Betts spent three years at NASA headquarters managing planetary instrument development programs to design spacecraft science instruments. 

At The Planetary Society, he has had copious project management experience, having managed a number of flight instrument (both science and public outreach) projects, including silica glass DVDs on the Mars Exploration Rovers and Phoenix lander carrying millions of names and Mars literature, the LIFE biology experiment that flew on the Russian Phobos sample return mission, and he led a NASA grant studying microrovers assisting human exploration.  He is the Program Manager for The Planetary Society’s LightSail solar sail missions.  He has also overseen or managed a number of additional projects designed to excite and involve the public in space exploration. 

Dr. Betts is the author of Astronomy for Kids: How to Explore Outer Space with Binoculars, a Telescope, or Just Your Eyes!  He regularly writes for The Planetary Society member magazine The Planetary Report, and on his blog on planetary.org.  His twitter feed @RandomSpaceFact provides easy night sky astronomy and random space facts, and his Random Space Fact videos provide facts and humor in brief segments.  He also co-hosts the "What's Up?" feature on the weekly Planetary Radio show (150 radio stations, XM/Sirius satellite radio, and podcast).  He is a frequent guest on History Channel’s The Universe.  Dr. Betts is an Adjunct Professor with California State University Dominguez Hills and his most recent Introduction to Astronomy and Planetary Science course is available for free online. He is an Alumnus Senior Scientist with Planetary Science Institute

Latest Planetary Radio Appearance

Lucy in the Sky With Asteroids

April 24, 2019 • 47:22

A rare alignment of planets and other objects will enable the solar-powered Lucy spacecraft to examine seven asteroids, six of which are among the thousands of Trojan asteroids that orbit ahead of and behind Jupiter. The mission team, include Hal Levison, Cathy Olkin and Mike Sekerak, hope to unlock secrets of our solar system’s origin through these ancient artifacts.

Latest Blog Posts

Your Guide to the Total Lunar Eclipse on 20 January

January 17, 2019

The eclipse will be visible throughout most of North America, South America, the eastern Pacific Ocean, the western Atlantic Ocean, Europe, and western Africa.

A Busy Summer

December 17, 2018

Bruce Betts reports on LightSail 2’s status and looks to the future of solar sailing.

Go Out and See the Geminid Meteor Shower

December 13, 2018

The Geminid meteor shower, which peaks tonight, is usually the best meteor shower of the year,

astronaut on Phobos
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