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Headshot of Bruce Betts

Bruce Betts

Director of Science and Technology

Dr. Bruce Betts is Director of Science and Technology 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, and the LIFE biology experiment that flew on the Russian Phobos sample return mission.  He is the Imaging Team Lead for The Planetary Society’s LightSail solar sail mission, and led a NASA grant studying microrovers assisting human exploration.  He has also overseen or managed a number of additional projects designed to excite and involve the public in space exploration. 

He regularly writes for The Planetary Society member magazine The Planetary Report, and on his blog on  His twitter feed @RandomSpaceFact provides easy night sky astronomy and random space facts.  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 recent Introduction to Astronomy and Planetary Science course is available online. He is an Alumnus Senior Scientist with Planetary Science Institute

Latest Planetary Radio Appearance

A Big Test for LightSail 2

05/24/2016 | 29:57

The Planetary Society’s solar sail spacecraft was in the middle of a critical test as we spoke with the Society’s Bruce Betts and Jason Davis.

More Planetary Radio shows »

Latest Blog Posts

Listen Up! Microphones to Fly to Mars

Posted 2016/07/15 06:17 CDT | 2 comments

The Mars 2020 mission will carry microphones in its EDL package and its SuperCam instrument, which will enable us to finally hear the sounds of Mars. The Planetary Society has been trying to get microphones to Mars for 20 years and is ecstatic that these will fly.

A new hope for a microphone on Mars: Enhancing Mars 2020 science with sound

Posted 2016/02/15 10:19 CST | 5 comments

When the Mars 2020 rover lands, we may finally hear the first audio recordings from the Martian surface.

Planetary Deep Drill Field Test: Road Trip

Posted 2015/12/14 11:32 CST | 0 comment

The Planetary Deep Drill is being tested in a California gypsum mine. Several Planetary Society staff took a road trip to visit the ongoing Honeybee Robotics test of this prototype robotic drill that could one day drill hundreds of meters into planetary ices.

Older blog posts »

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