Planetary Society members truly have helped pioneer new techniques in the conduct of science. Our initial investment has returned amazing results that will continue to deliver benefits over years to come.
On April 11, 2006, a new era dawned in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) with the dedication and beginning of operations of The Planetary Society Optical SETI Telescope in Harvard, Massachusetts. It is the first devoted optical SETI telescope in the world. The telescope was constructed by Paul Horowitz and his group at Harvard University using funding from Planetary Society members.
They held the usual pre-arrival press conference this morning for Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. This press conference typically doesn't convey any information that people who have been paying attention don't already know.
Cosmos 1 was—and is—a great effort, and one we are proud The Planetary Society tried to do. Our independent grassroots organization built and launched a spacecraft whose technology promises to one day open up interstellar travel.
Update as of July 28, 2005
Following last year's Potentially Hazardous Asteroid and a few other non-main-belt discoveries, I looked into what improvements I could make to more efficiently image the sky. The major advance involved the design of a 3-lens corrector comprising 2 stock lenses and a custom lens I made myself.
The Volna Failure Review Board convened by the Makeev Rocket Design Bureau, manufacturers of the Volna launch vehicle, has made its final report to the Russian space agency, Roskosmos, concerning the attempted June 21 launch of our Cosmos 1 spacecraft.
The word failure is sticking in my craw. Certainly, we failed to achieve the objective of Cosmos 1: we did not achieve solar-sail flight. But I don’t think, with all we have done, that I can call Cosmos 1 a failure.
In the past twenty-four hours, the Russian space agency (RKA) has made a tentative conclusion that the Volna rocket carrying Cosmos 1 failed during the firing of the first stage. This would mean that Cosmos 1 is lost.
When Cosmos 1, the first solar sail spacecraft, launches on June 21, 2005, it will carry into Earth orbit a CD containing the names of over 75,000 members of The Planetary Society and the Japan Planetary Society, along with the works of early visionaries who inspired solar sailing.
Yesterday, we sent out an invitation to print, TV, and Web media for the launch event we'll be holding at our Pasadena headquarters on Tuesday. So today, the buzz really began about our mission, and the phones are beginning to ring off the hook.
From Moscow to the Marshall Islands and California to the Czech Republic, tracking stations around the world will receive data from Cosmos 1, the world's first solar sail spacecraft after it launches on June 21, 2005.
The biggest reason that NASA—as well as other western space agencies—has not attempted a solar sail flight is that the cost of launching even a small spacecraft is so high that they are unwilling to carry out a mission with very modest goals.