At the beginning of this decade, we designed a mission to accomplish this goal. We launched Cosmos 1 in June 2005, but the Volna rocket that was to place the spacecraft in orbit failed, and we were never able to test our solar sail in flight.
These days, The Planetary Society is working with colleagues at NASA and at the Russian Space Research Institute to put together a new solar sail mission.
Tonight at the Boston Court Performing Arts Center in Pasadena, Jim Bell and Bill Nye will be celebrating the 5th anniversary of the landing of the rovers; Jim will be showing lots of pretty 3D pictures.
One of the youngest off-springs of SETI@home has been getting a great deal of attention recently. Known as the Quake-Catcher Network (QCN), this distributed computing project makes use of thousands of volunteers' computers to locate and track earthquakes.
The Planetary Society and Cosmos Studios remain committed to flying the first flight with light. Our spacecraft, Cosmos 2, is a maneuverable solar sail that may be the precursor to a new mode of interplanetary travel, and could one day take us to the stars.
Last week Mars Climate Sounder collected its 20 millionth sounding at Mars. Mars Climate Sounder is scanning without problems, collecting science observations of the atmosphere of Mars. Mars Climate Sounder has now been observing Mars for over 17 months (three quarters of a Mars year and also approximately three quarters of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter primary science mission).
In the beginning was SETI@home, the first large-scale volunteer computing project, launched in 1999 with seed money from The Planetary Society. Within months the project had millions of volunteers around the world joining to form the most powerful computer network ever assembled.
A fully formed planetary system, with five different planets of varying sizes and orbits has been found, orbiting a star more than 40 light years away. Significantly, it is the very same star, 55 Cancri, that was one of the chief targets of the SETI@home reobservations at Arecibo in March 2003.
The Planetary Society's Optical SETI Telescope was built solely to search for possible light signals from alien civilizations. Located at Oak Ridge Observatory in Harvard, Massachusetts, it is the first dedicated Optical SETI telescope in the world. Its 72-inch primary mirror also makes it larger than any optical telescope in the U.S. east of the Mississippi river.
Two months after the start of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's primary science phase, the Mars Climate Sounder instrument has already acquired more than four million soundings, building toward a vast data set on the three-dimensional structure of Mars' atmosphere over the full Martian year of the orbiter's nominal mission.
Update as of March 4, 2007
Thanks to The Planetary Society Shoemaker Grant, the 1.06-meter KLENOT telescope optics was completed at the Klet Observatory. Regular observations of the KLENOT project started in March 2002 under the new IAU/MPC code 246, so we can now present results covering 5 years of this work.
Winter time is observing time at the Oak Ridge Observatory in Massachusetts, when humidity is low and the sky is often clear. And so it has been for the Optical SETI telescope, which opened its doors in April 2006.